Christie Blasts Critics of New Judge
PATERSON—A lawyer who defended Muslims detained after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was sworn in as a New Jersey Superior Court judge on Tuesday, as Gov. Chris Christie called those who criticized his nomination ignorant.
The appointment of Sohail Mohammed, 47 years old, angered some conservatives, who said they were concerned about the influence of Sharia law, an Islamic code of law.
Mr. Christie defended Mr. Mohammed, who is Muslim, calling him an extraordinary American and an outstanding lawyer who helped strengthen ties between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Muslim community after the 2001 attacks.
Mr. Christie said the people Mr. Mohammed represented were inappropriately detained by the FBI after what he called a very difficult time for law enforcement.
“It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies,” he said. “It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.” Mr. Christie added: “I’m happy that he’s willing to serve after all this baloney.”
From postings on online message boards to testimony in the Trenton statehouse, critics said they were concerned about Mr. Mohammed’s beliefs. They reflected complaints of some who say Mr. Christie, who is being begged by Republicans across the country to run for president, isn’t as conservative as they would like.
“To many of us, this was political expediency, trying to court favor with a growing population, and that’s not what the judiciary is supposed to be about,” said Carolee Adams, president of the Eagle Forum of New Jersey, a conservative group.
She spoke against Mr. Mohammed at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Sitting behind the bench in a packed courtroom in the Passaic County Courthouse, Mr. Mohammed told of how his journey to that spot in many ways centered around that very room.
It was in that courthouse where he took his oath of citizenship and where he served jury duty, which is what led him to abandon an engineering career and become a lawyer.
He spoke of how he is an example of the American dream, how he came to the country in 1980, and how his mother worked two jobs to support the family. He thanked Mr. Christie for being a friend.
“It’s all part of the process,” Mr. Mohammed said when asked about the criticism of his nomination.
Asaad Siddiqi, president of the New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, said there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Sharia law for Muslims in America—that it is cultural, rather than something that would subvert a judge’s duty to uphold the law, constitution and precedents.
He said the criticism was similar to that levied at judicial nominations in other policy areas by opposition groups.
Mr. Siddiqi, who once worked opposite Mr. Mohammed in a dispute involving parents and a school board, described him as an intelligent and respected lawyer.
“We’re a diverse state, and it’s important to have a judiciary that reflects the members, the citizens of the state,” Mr. Siddiqi said. “It’s an important step forward for the state.”
Ms. Adams said she’s been disappointed with Mr. Christie, saying he surrounded himself with liberal appointments. She said Mr. Christie’s dismissal of his critics meant he was “ignorant” of Sharia law.
“He’s come under attack and in his typical fashion he will attack the attacker without answering it in a very intelligent and knowledgeable way,” she said. “That’s his style.”
Original post: Christie Blasts Critics of New Judge