Judge rules NJ Imam who was linked to Hamas can become legal U.S. resident
September 4, 2008
MIM: For more on Qantanani's Islamist activities see The Investigative Project's "The Latest "Interfaith" Leader With Terror Ties".
Qatanani was a speaker at an Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) conference in Chicago on November 27, 1999, introduced as the new imam of the Patterson Islamic Center in New Jersey. IAP conferences are not good venues to participate or attend if one is trying to disprove an association with Hamas.
IAP is no longer an active organization, but for years it was a central player in Hamas' U.S. support network. Mousa Abu Marzook, currently the Deputy Political Bureau Chief for Hamas in Damascus, gave IAP $490,000 and is a former IAP board member. In a 2001 memo, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service identified IAP as "part of Hamas' propaganda apparatus." In the summer of 2007, the Dallas trial charging the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) with providing material support for Hamas produced extensive evidence that IAP played a central role in the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee, shorthand for Hamas' U.S.-based infrastructure. This earned IAP the distinction of being named an unindicted coconspirator in the trial.
In a September 2004 Herald News article titled, "HAMAS: Charitable cause or terror organization? It depends on whom you ask," Qatanani came out in favor of supporting the families of suicide bombers:
Mohammad Qatanani, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, posed a hypothetical question: What if the charity did support the children of suicide bombers? What would be wrong with that, he wondered?
"There is a big issue between supporting them before, not after," suicide attacks, he said.
He compared the support of orphans of suicide bombers to supporting the children of terrorists like Timothy McVeigh for instance, or the children of the man who killed former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) ― An influential New Jersey Muslim leader whom U.S. authorities had sought to link to a terrorist group and have deported has won his fight to gain permanent U.S. residency.
A federal immigration judge in Newark ruled Thursday that Mohammad Qatanani, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, can remain in the U.S. The 44-year-old Palestinian has served as the imam, or Muslim religious leader, since 1996 at the mosque in Paterson, a city that is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the region. U.S. immigration authorities had sought to deport Qatanani on grounds that he failed to disclose on his green card application a prior arrest and conviction in Israel for being a member of Hamas -- a group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Qatanani has denied being a Hamas member and said he was detained, not arrested, by the Israelis while traveling to his native West Bank in 1993.
He said he was not notified of the charges against him nor his conviction. In 2005, he initiated a meeting with immigration officials to inquire about the delay in his green card application, during which he told them about his detention in Israel. U.S. officials later received documents from Israel that claimed he had been arrested and convicted. During testimony at his immigration hearing in June, Qatanani spoke of the mental and physical abuse he endured in detention, and argued such practices were routine at the time. A 71-page written decision issued by immigration Judge Alberto J. Riefkohl questioned the reliability of the records submitted by the Department of Homeland Security purporting to show Qatanani's arrest and conviction in Israel. Riefkohl's decision called the U.S. government's case against Qatanani "patently incomplete," and found its two key witnesses -- both federal agents -- to not be credible. "Their testimony is tainted by the lack of an accurate record and their inconsistent and contradictory testimony," Riefkohl wrote.
Qatanani emigrated from Jordan in 1996 on a religious worker visa to lead the New Jersey mosque. He applied for permanent U.S. residency in 1999 for himself, his wife and three of their six children who were not born in America. Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sought to portray Qatanani as a terrorist-affiliated Muslim activist, quoting a sermon he gave at the Paterson mosque in which he called Israelis "transgressors" and questioning his ties to his brother-in-law, a convicted Hamas terrorist who was killed by the Israelis. Government lawyers also said Qatanani had been an outspoken university leader during his student days in Jordan. The judge found no credible evidence linking him to terrorism and wrote that family ties to a convicted terrorist do not make someone a terrorist. He said testimony in support of the imam from U.S. law enforcement officials made his application credible. "The Court has to emphasize that the enigma in this regard is not created by Mr. Qatanani, his answers, nor his testimony," the decision reads. "This ambiguity is created by DHS, the FBI, other Federal Agencies and the Israeli government whose acts, cumulatively, have avoided disclosing to this Court the real and actual facts surrounding Mr. Qatanani's imprisonment in the West Bank in 1993."
His immigration fight garnered national attention for the unusual spectacle of high-ranking law enforcement officials taking the stand on his behalf. Qatanani received words of support as late as Wednesday night from several high-ranking law enforcement officials -- including U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie -- who attended a Ramadan fast-breaking celebration at the Paterson mosque. "My view is he's always had a very good relationship with us, and he's a man of great good will," Christie said Wednesday before exchanging traditional cheek kiss greetings with him and wishing him well. Christie was joined by Weysan Dun, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office; U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.; county prosecutors; sheriffs, and the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security in praising Qatanani and the role of mosque members in building bridges with law enforcement in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. During Qatanani's immigration hearing, Jewish, Catholic and Episcopalian leaders also testified that they viewed him as a moderate Muslim leader dedicated to interfaith outreach. Hundreds of his supporters kept a vigil outside the courthouse during his trial, which began in early May. Thursday's decision means that Qatanani, his wife and their three foreign-born children can now become legal permanent U.S. residents. Both parties have 30 days to appeal the ruling.
MIM: Mohammed Qatanani admitted to being a member of Hamas.
NEWARK (AP) -- When he faces an immigration judge in two weeks, a popular Muslim cleric fighting deportation may have to counter claims that he confessed to being a member of a terrorist group.
According to Israeli military authorities, Imam Mohammad Qatanani admitted being a member of the militant Hamas organization during interrogation in 1993 in Israel.
"Imam Mohammed Katanani was convicted based on his own admission on charges of belonging to an unauthorized association and providing services to an unauthorized association, for being a member of Hamas and acting on its behalf," the Israeli army said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press.
The U.S. State Department includes Hamas on its list of "designated foreign terrorist organizations." Anyone identified as a member or a supporter of an organization on the list can be refused entry to the U.S., according to Lucille Cirillo, spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.... http://jihadwatch.org/archives/020799.php
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MIM: The website of the Islamic Center of Passaic County posted an announcement celebrating the court ruling in favor of Qatanani.
Congratulation to our Imam and community Allah-Hu-Akbar , Allah-Hu-Akbar , Allah-Hu-Akbar All praise is due to Allah, the federal court has ruled today Thursday, September 4th, 2008 to allow our beloved imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani to remain in the USA.