Chris Christie’s attorney general appoints Islamists to advisory panel

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s appointee picked four Islamists for an advisory panel intended to improve relations between the government and the state’s small but growing community of Muslim immigrants and settlers, according to a new report by RadicalIslam.org.

Christie commissioned the 10-member advisory panel in the spring when Islamist and progressive political groups objected to routine surveillance by New York police of nearby Muslim neighborhoods.

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a Christie appointee, set up the panel, which met for the first time in September.

The panel meets with state police and political leaders, giving Islamists an opportunity to push their top-level demand that Muslim neighborhoods be allowed to govern themselves by their own rules, including Islam’s Shariah law. After a recent meeting, a spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general would only say that the gathering was “productive” and that “several issues were raised.”

The police checks on New Jersey Muslim communities began after the Sept. 11, 2011, atrocity, in which 19 Muslims killed 3,000 Americans in September 2001. Since then, numerous Muslims, imams and Islamist activists have been jailed or deported for harboring or providing aid to Islamic radicals or jihadi groups.

The names of the 10 panel members were on a list of attendees at the September meeting. The list was discovered by the RadicalIslam.org site.

The four Islamists appointed by Christie to the outreach panel include the controversial Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who is facing deportation for trying to hide his ties to the Islamist terror group Hamas.

Deportations hearing are slated to restart this month, said Ryan Mauro, the national-security researcher for RadicalIslam.org, which is supported by the New York-based Clarion Fund.

A Department of Homeland Security attorney urged an immigration judge in 2008 not to admit Qatanani because “he has engaged in terrorist activity.”

Hamas is back in the news this week, after its top leaders fired more than 100 rockets at civilians in Israel. The Israeli military struck back Nov. 14, killing the group’s top military commander.

Qatanani is an orthodox Sunni Muslim, who holds orthodox Sunni views. For example, he supports limits on speech that is disliked by Muslims.

“We, as Americans, have to put limits and borders [on] freedom of speech,” he said in September amid White House claims that a YouTube video had prompted a jihad group to destroy the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed four Americans. Americans “have no right to [talk about Muslim] holy issues,” and will incite “hatred or war among people” if they try, he told The Blaze.

In July, Christie blasted Qatanani’s critics, and publicly applauded him at a Muslim religious dinner. There is a wave “of intolerance that’s going around our country that is disturbing,” Christie declared at the dinner. The criticisms made against Qatanani “are the kind of red herrings that people put up who are bigots, who want to judge people based upon their religious beliefs, want to judge people with a broad brush.”

“I’m glad to have you here,” he told Qatanani, adding that he has “attempted to be a force for good in his community.”

Qatanani has denied charges by Israeli military officials who told The Associated Press that he confessed to being a member of Hamas. In 2008, Qatanani’s lawyer gathered a Jewish rabbi, three Christian ministers, two sheriffs and a U.S. congressman to defend his client’s character.

The RadicalIslam.org site also identified three other Islamists on Christie’s panel.

They include Ahmed Shedeed, president of a fundamentalist mosque in Jersey City and a supporter of the Cairo-based international group the Muslim Brotherhood — which is the parent organization of Hamas.

The two other members are Mohammed Younes, the president of an Islamist political group, and Imam Abdul Basit, an imam at a mosque in New Brunswick.

Christie is navigating a tough re-election campaign in 2013, partly because of the recent storm damage to his state. The state’s Muslim power-brokers can sway a small but useful segment of the electorate into his column.

However, Christie’s repeated shout-outs to the Islamist power-brokers may cost him support among Americans — and GOP activists — worried about the reluctance of some Muslim leaders to integrate into U.S. society, and about their continued participation in the religious politics of the Arab world.

Other politicians have quickly resolved problems caused by poor vetting of immigrant Muslim political leaders. In August 2007, for example, Virginia’s Governor Tim Kaine fired one Muslim appointee hours after discovering his ties to Islamist groups.

Christie’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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