Mohammad Qatanani

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Mohammad Qatanani
Imam-qatanani.jpg
Born Mohammad Ahmad Hasan Qatanani
Askar, Palestine
Occupation Imam
Religion Sunni Islam

Mohammad Ahmad Hasan Qatanani (born 1964) is the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey called ICPC in Paterson. Qatanani migrated to America in 1996 as the Imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County. Qatanani has a Ph.D in Islamic studies from the Jordanian University.

Qatanani and his family were faced with deportation from the United States because he allegedly failed to disclose in a green card application that he was a member of Hamas, an organization regarded by the U.S. and the European Union as terrorist; officials were relying on a report that Israeli forces had arrested and convicted him as a Hamas member in 1993.[1] Qatanani contends that he was never formally arrested nor charged with a crime, but rather was among the hundreds of Palestinians detained during a 1993 uprising.[1] He further contends that he was convicted in absentia and faced severely harsh interrogation tactics that Israel's highest court subsequently banned as torture.[2] A U.S. Immigration Judge subsequently declined to deport Mohammad Qatanani and his family and granted them permanent residency in 2008. The case is currently being appealed through the New Jersey Immigration Court of Appeals.[3]

Early life and education in Jordan[edit]

Qatanani was born to Ahmad Hasan Qatanani (1936–2005) and Ayisha Qatanani (b. 1941) in the town of Askar in Palestine. Qatanani has 7 siblings, 3 brothers (Hasan, Taha, and Yaseen) and 4 sisters (Aminah, Wafa', Maryam, and Sumaia). Qatanani's brother-in-law was a senior Hamas military leader and killed by the Israelis.[4]

Qatanani lived in a Palestinian refugee camp until he finished high school (1982) and received a scholarship to study at the College of Amman, located in Jordan. Qatanani finished his bachelors in Islamic Law in 1985 and then continued to study until he received a masters from the Jordanian University in Islamic Jurisprudence in 1989. After a one year break, Qatanani returned to the Jordanian University to work on his Ph.D. on Islamic Jurisprudence which he received in 1996.

After receiving his bachelors degree, Qatanani worked as an Imam for several different mosques in Amman, Jordan until 1989. In 1989, Qatanani got a job as a full-time Imam of Abu-Qoura Mosque in Amman, Jordan. He worked there until 1996.

Qatanani was accused of pleading guilty in 1993 to aiding and being a member of Hamas. He was also accused that was sentenced to three months in prison. However, 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 and that he was mentally and physically abused while in detention.[5] On his green card application, Qatanani had answered "no" to a question asking applicants whether they had been arrested, fined, charged or imprisoned. The Department of Homeland Security was unable to provide substantial evidence that Qatanani was arrested, convicted, fined, charged or imprisoned.[6]

Qatanani, also admitted being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a controversial organization that is banned by the governments of Israel, Egypt and Syria, which argue that it has ties to terrorists. However, the Muslim Brotherhood was a legal and lawful organization in Jordan where he resided and became a member.

Imam in the U.S.[edit]

In 1996 Qatanani migrated with his family to America on a religious work visa. Qatanani became the Imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC) in Paterson, New Jersey, the second largest Muslim community in the U.S.. He is also a Member of the Fiqh Council of North America and gave lectures at the Islamic American University, a subsidiary of the Muslim American Society (MAS).[7] Qatanani was a speaker at an Islamic Association of Palestine conference in Chicago in 1999.[8] He was quoted in 2004 as seeing no "big issue" with charities supporting the children of suicide bombers "after" the suicide attacks, explaining that the children are innocent, even if their parents are not.[9]

In 1999, Qatanani applied for a U.S. Green Card without disclosing that he had been in Israeli detention for three months in 1993. Qatanani contends that he never received word of any charges or convictions against him during his three months in police custody, and therefore was not lying on the immigration form.[10] Government officials learned of Qatanani's detention when Qatanani contacted the FBI in 2005 requesting assistance with his immigration application.[11] In July 2006, the government denied his application, and deportation proceedings began against him, his wife and three of his six children.[12]

According to Israeli records, he was "convicted of assisting terrorist organizations for referring Palestinian students arriving in Jordan" to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a student organization that was legal in Jordan, and the Hamas, which is on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.[13] Qatanani did not dispute that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan[13] and that he helped Palestinian students find housing and get into Jordanian university, but says that he was unaware of any links to groups like Hamas and that he was not a member of Hamas.[14]

Interfaith[edit]

Qatanani has paved the way in New Jersey for common interfaith dialogue between different religions. He has spoken at more than 100 churches and synagogues across New Jersey.[15]

Trial[edit]

Character witnesses testifying for Qatanani included Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests along with two county sheriffs who praised Qatanani for helping investigators become acquainted with cultural aspects of the Muslim community. On September 4, 2008, a U.S. Immigration Judge declined to deport and granted Mohammad Qatanani and his family permanent residency.[16]

The Judge noted that the records obtained by Homeland Security officials from the Israelis were “too unreliable to prove that Mr. Qatanani has engaged in terrorist activities.”[17]

The lead government attorney drew criticism for reading passages from the Quran that indicated that God will cause unbelievers to “increase in illness." An attorney for the American Jewish Congress questioned the relevance of referring to Quranic passages in Qatanani's trial, explaining that the passages "showed no inclination towards violence" on Qatanani's part.[18]

Rabbi Senter of Pompton Lakes, one of Qatanani's character witness who noted that Qatanani was “the most moderate individual you could imagine”[13] was "shocked" to see the government attorney "use the tactics of hatemongers in an effort to tip the scales of justice."[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mitsu Yasukawa. "Paterson imam fights deportation". Nj.com. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Imam receives strong support". Nj.com. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  3. ^ Officials appeal imam ruling[dead link]
  4. ^ Supporters Rally in Newark as Imam's Trial Opens
  5. ^ "Terror claims against NJ Muslim leader rejected". Aafusa.org. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  6. ^ Let the Imam Stay[dead link]
  7. ^ Speaker's Biography at the MAS-ICNA Convention 2007
  8. ^ Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) 3rd Annual Conference, Chicago, November 25–27, 1999
  9. ^ "HAMAS: Charitable cause or terror organization? It depends on whom you ask," Maya Kremen, Herald News, September 27, 2004
  10. ^ "Revered New Jersey Imam, Facing Deportation, Has Interfaith Support". Nytimes.com. 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  11. ^ "Imam receives strong support". Nj.com. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  12. ^ Case against Passaic County imam puzzles experts By HEATHER HADDON, HERALD NEWS 03/04/2008
  13. ^ a b c Revered New Jersey Imam, Facing Deportation, Has Interfaith Support By TINA KELLEY and ELIZABETH DWOSKIN, NYT, April 24, 2008
  14. ^ Muslim leader faces deportation BY ELIZABETH LLORENTE, THE RECORD, March 1, 2008
  15. ^ "These friends are on a journey to destroy stereotypes". Printthis.clickability.com. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  16. ^ "Popular Passaic County cleric can stay in U.S". Nj.com. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  17. ^ Joyous supporters greet Imam[dead link]
  18. ^ "Prosecutor cites Koran in trial of Muslim cleric". Njjewishnews.com. 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  19. ^ "Prosecutor cites Koran in trial of Muslim Cleric". Njjewishnews.com. 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2012-09-30.