”This is vindictive. The implications for relations between our community and the federal government are damaging and far-reaching.” Uh huh.
HACKENSACK, N.J. – What was expected to be a day of jubilation at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson Friday turned into one of bitterness as news spread that the mosque’s spiritual leader must renew his fight against deportation.
”We thought it was over,” said Awatif Abadrabbo, referring to the announcement by Homeland Security officials that were appealing an immigration judge’s ruling last month granting Imam Mohammad Qatanani permanent U.S. residency.
”We want him to stay,” she said. ”He has been good for us, for our children.”
Other congregants said the appeal would taint a relationship between the mosque and federal officials developed since Sept. 11, 2001, when Qatanani was one of the first imams nationwide to condemn the attacks and invited the FBI to the mosque to address the congregation.
If he is really connected with Hamas, that relationship is simply evidence of the naivete and ignorance of the FBI officials in question, and is already tainted.
”This is vindictive,” said Aref Assaf, spokesman for the imam. ”The implications for relations between our community and the federal government are damaging and far-reaching.”
I wonder if Assaf has ever considered what are or should be the implications for relations between his community and the federal government of their having an imam linked to a jihad terrorist group.
DHS filed a notice Thursday that they will appeal Immigration Court Judge Alberto Riefkohl’s ruling. DHS, which includes immigration agencies, contends in its appeal notice that Qatanani ”engaged in terrorist activity” in the early 1990s with Hamas, a group in the Middle East that the United States classifies as terrorist.
Riefkohl rejected the DHS claims, which relied heavily on Israeli documents that the judge found questionable.
”ICE believes that the immigration judge made mistakes of law, judgment and discretion,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Many Muslims view the government’s new effort to deport the imam, hailed across New Jersey as a voice of moderation and a bridge-builder between Muslims and non-Muslims, as an attack on their religion and their culture….
During his time as imam, Qatanani, a soft-spoken, diminutive man, has won the respect of people from different religions and ethnic communities. In addition, the state’s most powerful political and law enforcement officials often make a point of attending major events at his mosque. On Wednesday, at a 7 a.m. event which marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine was the main speaker at the mosque.
That doesn’t mean anything except that Corzine and the others are as clueless as are most other public officials.
Homeland Security had argued during the four days of the trial earlier this year that Qatanani, 44, lied on his 1999 application for residency because he failed to disclose a conviction in Israel in 1993 based on purported links to Hamas. They tried to forge a link between Qatanani and the mosque’s former imam, Mohamed El-Mezain, who is facing conspiracy charges by the federal government in Dallas. The government is seeking a conviction against El-Mezaain and other past officers of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Muslim charity shut down in 2001 that U.S. officials accuse of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas….