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The PJ Tatler

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Terror Tracker

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January 24, 2011 - 6:56 am

Mud-slinging aside, what’s the real deal on Republican Governor Christie’s choice of a questionable Muslim lawyer for a Superior Court judgeship?

Truth be told, it’s a more than a little unsettling that Christie is moving forward with Sohail Mohammed’s appointment. But not because of fears about him imposing Sharia, or the beginnings of the end for the United States.

Mohammed offered to legally represent an extremist Palestinian rally in 2000, where Jewish stars were equated with swastikas, etc. However, he has since been involved in interfaith activities with Jews. He has repeatedly condemned acts of terror. However, he has also zealously defended his clients, even those linked to terror. But isn’t that what we expect from a good lawyer and candidate for a judgeship? He has also served as a character witness for an imam with links to Hamas, but in all fairness it was his religious leader and many people would go to bat for their preacher.

The real question is not whether Mohammed will implement Sharia (religious quotes from sources like the Bible are used only as additional reinforcement for judges’ rulings, never as primary sources), but whether principles from Islamic law will bias his judgments. Will his identification with accused terrorists in his community, and what he has called a “witch hunt against Muslims,” bias his view on terror cases? Will pro-Israel defendants get a fair shake in his court? Is his appointment going to embarrass Republicans, should the extreme political views of his affiliates turn out to be his own?

Also, how much blame can be placed on Governor Christie, who is just trying to rustle up votes from a large Muslim constituency? His oversight occurred for a number of reasons: a) a lack of solid information about Mohammed’s views; b) the failure of detractors to distinguish between Mohammed’s good defense of clients and his personal views; c) his mosque and organization have sponsored years of interfaith talks in contradiction to extremist rhetoric.

In any case, now that the cat is out of the bag about Mohammed’s bias, Governor Christie should seriously consider rescinding his offer. Saving face may be in the governor’s personal interest, but it’s in everyone’s interest to protect the public from a biased judge.

Terror Tracker is a senior researcher on Islamism and radicalization at an intelligence think tank in Washington DC.
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