THE PERSECUTION OF MY FRIEND: Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani
- THE PERSECUTION OF MY FRIEND: Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani
THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOUNDATION
Rabi Al-Thaani 1429
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace)
"A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety
of evils It gives to ambitious, corrupted or deluded citizens (who
devote themselves to the favorite nation) the facility to betray or
sacrifice the interest of their own country without odium, sometimes
even with popularity." President George Washington
On Thursday (May 8), Friday (May 9), and Monday (May 12), a special
initiative is going to be held at a federal courthouse in New Jersey
for a very special brother in Islam and leader in the New Jersey faith
community Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani. I am scheduled to be in
Chicago for speaking engagements during this period, but a part of me
will be with my friend, his family, and the community he leads.
Imam Qatanani, a religious scholar and soft-spoken native of Occupied
Palestine, came to the United States with his wife and three young
children in 1996, with the hope of realizing the American dream. Over
the years the Qatananis were blessed with three more American born
children, as they laid family and community roots in the city of
Paterson, New Jersey.
Now, in the words of his many supporters, "After nearly 13 years as an
extraordinary voice of tolerance and compassion serving the wider
community in Northern New Jersey, Imam Dr. Mohamad Qatanani, the
spiritual leader of the largest Islamic Center in New Jersey the
Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC), faces the unjust prospect of
deportation from the land of liberty and justice for all, the land
that he and his family have grown to love."
How the persecution began
In July of 2006, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied
the family's adjustment of status application and the Imam and his
family were put into removal proceedings. The basis for the denial was
a detention of the Imam in 1993, by Israeli authorities, when he
journeyed from his home in Jordan to visit his family in the West
Bank. Mass detention for Palestinians was (and still is) a common
On his immigration application the Imam and his attorneys answered
"No" when asked if he was ever arrested. Imam Qatanani and his
experienced attorneys believed that he was "detained" and not
"arrested," because he was never charged with any crime, never faced a
civilian or military judge, and ultimately was unconditionally
released after 3 months without any word of why he was detained in the
It should also be noted that the Imam responded in a legally justified
manner to the issue of arrest or detention, and that he has been
forthright with government officials during interviews and discussions
regarding his period of detention. Primarily based on this innocuous
episode that occurred over thirteen years ago, the application for
permanent residency for the Imam, his wife and his three oldest
children has been placed in limbo. This uncertain status has caused a
measure of anxiety and untold hardships for the family.
Case in point: the driving privileges of both the Imam and his wife,
Somaia, were revoked for the past three years. Sr. Somaia, a school
teacher, has faced the daily quandary of not being able to drive
herself and her children to school. On at least two occasions during
this period, the family has been faced with the scary situation of
children falling ill late at night, and with no access to
transportation, having to suffer the indignity of literally walking to
the nearest hospital in the darkness of the night.
Imam Qatanani's contribution to the community
Imam Mohammad Qatanani's inspired leadership is credited with the
1. Youth programs, weekend school classes, nightly community
gatherings, summer picnics, and an assortment of other community
festivities which unite the community with the message of hope and peace.
2. Annual voter registration drives.
3. In-house round table discussions with political leaders including
several Governors, US Senators, Congressman, State Senate and Assembly
Representatives, Mayors and Municipal Council Officials.
4. Human relief efforts comprised of food and fund drives for the
victims of 9/11, the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
5. Local Health fairs and blood drives.
6. Diversified congregation with comprehensive interpretation and
7. Programs that strengthen familial bonds and increase families'
engagement with the community.
8. Extensive work in the area of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
It was these strong relationships within the community-at-large that
enabled diverse communities in the northern New Jersey area - to
comfort each other after the tragic attacks of September 11. The Imam
was one of the first Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks,
specifically, and all violence against humanity in general. The Imam's
community welcomed FBI officials to ICPC to open channels of
communication, tolerance and security. These efforts were recognized
state-wide when he was called upon to open the NJ State Senate with a
recitation and prayer for peace and humanity.
What others have said about Imam Qatanani
"Fostering dialogue, understanding and trust between Muslims,
Christians and Jews is critical for our nation and the world. In this
cause here in New Jersey, Dr. Mohammad Qatanani, the Imam of the
Islamic Center of Passaic County, has been a tireless champion. Now
our federal government is seeking to deport him along with his wife
and six children. With the billions our government spends now on
homeland security, how could they get it so wrong?" Rev. Bill
Potter, Priest of St. Like Episcopalian Church (Hope, NJ)
"Imam Qatanani is an asset to our society and culture, as he models
and preaches values consistent with the American ideal." Rabbi David
Senter, Congregation Beth Shalom (Pompton Lakes)
"I've seen with my own eyes a gentleman who's had a tremendous
positive influence in the community He's done nothing but good since
he's been in the U.S., and many of us are ready to stand up and go to
court to testify about him if need be." U.S. Representative Bill
Pascrell (Congressman for NJ)
Some closing thoughts
I have had the pleasure of knowing Imam Qatanani for several years
now, and I value him as one of my dearest friends. We were first
introduced at a large Palestine-related demonstration in New York
City. The delegation from ICPC was impressed with what I had to say
about the never ending Middle East crisis, and I was invited to visit
the center and share some thoughts with the community.
I'll never forget my first impression of ICPC. When I saw how large
and organized the community was, I kidded my brothers and sisters at
the center with the following words: If I were a betting man, I would
wager all I had that this center is under intense surveillance.
About a month later I visited the center again, on my way to New York
for a jumah (Friday prayer service). On that visit I passed out
printed information on some issue that my organization was working on
at the time. A few days later I received a visit at my home from the
FBI. Before the visit with my guests ended, I asked them how it was
that I came to their attention. Their response was that I had visited
"the mosque in Patterson, NJ." Upon hearing this I just shook my head
and smiled. (My instincts were correct.)
Truth be told, the Islamic Center of Passaic County has been under
uninterrupted surveillance, and the Qatanani family (among others)
have been trapped in an immigration quagmire, for one reason and one
reason only the State of Israel and the so-called "war on
terrorism." (A twin monstrosity joined at the hip.)
When leaders like Rev. Bill Potter reference the billions of dollars
going into "homeland security," and then raise the question of "how
could they get it so wrong?" the truth is, the powers-that-be know
exactly what they are doing! The government's persecution of the
Qatananis is nothing more than deliberate policy designed to frighten,
silence, and destabilize the Muslim community (esp. Palestinians) and
In our latest book, The Palestinians' Holocaust: American Perspectives
(pg 72), we cite an April 1, 2007 address that Speaker Nancy Pelosi
delivered before the Israeli Knesset. In her speech she noted,
"Israeli expertise and technology are helping protect cities and
airports across America."
Our special relationship with Israel, and the impact that this
relationship has had on domestic and foreign policy, is at the very
heart of so many cases that have shaken the very foundations of
While the government makes the argument that the "war on terrorism" is
not a war against Islam and Muslims, a myriad of cases and issues
i.e. Dr. Sami Al-Arian, Mohammad Salah and Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, the
Holy Land Foundation, etc., immigration cases like that Imam Dr.
Mohammad Qatanani, and oppressive U.S. foreign policy overseas
prove otherwise (for the average Muslim in the street)!
I pray that people of good will (both Muslim and non-Muslim) in the
New Jersey-New York area, who are in a position to do so, will support
the upcoming May 8-12th initiatives, and become permanently active in
the campaign for justice for Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani and his
family. The community as a whole will benefit from such an effort!
Yours in the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
The Peace And Justice Foundation
RALLY TO SUPPORT IMAM QATANANI AT THE FEDERAL COURT HOUSE FOR HIS
IMMIGRATION HEARING ON MAY 8th, 9th AND 12th!
-Free buses will be leaving from ICPC at 8 am. For other locations,
please consult with your local mosque to see if they will provide busing.
-The address is 970 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. (Few minutes walking
from Newark Penn Station.)
-Friday prayer will be held at the rally. Guestspeaker: Imam Siraj Wahhaj
-Wear your A4Q white t-shirts or purchase them on site.
Thursday, May 8th: Rally until 1 pm
Friday, May 9th: Rally all day- Jummah (Friday) prayer will be on site
Monday, May 12th: Rally until 1 pm
Please go to www.americans4qatanani.com for additional information on
this case, and how YOU can become involved.
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