Gov. Chris Christie and the Republican nominee for Congress in the 9th District are at odds over a Paterson imam.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach last Friday denounced Imam Mohammed Qatanani as an alleged former member of Hamas and antagonist of Israel, calling on U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) to distance himself from the Muslim cleric unless Imam Qatanani takes back past statements and repudiates his past.
Four days later, Qatanani was present at Drumthwacket with other Muslim leaders marking the beginning of Ramadan.
Christie had kind words for the same Muslim leader whom Shmuley wants Pascrell to denounce.
“In all my interactions with the imam, he has attempted to be a force for good in his community, in our state with law enforcement, with those of us who have gotten to know him over the years,” Christie told the crowd. “I hope that what you see is a constant strain of conduct for me. I will judge people based upon their relationships with me and the way I observe them conduct themselves, and while there may be other issues at play and I will certainly consider those if other facts come in, I will tell you the folks who who are my friends will continue to be my friends as long as they continue to conduct themselves with integrity and honesty and faith in common values and the things that make our state a better place.”
The Republican leader’s comments clashed with Boteach’s press conference at his home last week, when the GOP nominee called on Pascrell to publicly distance himself from Qatanani unless the imam himself repudiates past anti-Israeli statements.
“He’s one of the imam’s biggest supporters – arguably the biggest,” Boteach said of Pascrell.
The Republican candidate provided a stack of purported Qatanani quotes to the media from the imam, including the following: “Oh brothers and sisters. On such a day, a human disaster occurred: on 5 and ten, the 15th day of May 1948 was the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the earth. It is what is known as the Palestinian Nakba. This Nakba, because of this Nakba, the State of Israel was established on the Land of Palestine.”
Boteach pointed out that Qatanani, a Paterson resident, faced possible deportation from the United States after he allegedly failed to disclose in a green card application that he was a past member of Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Then the cleric showed up at the Republican governor’s mansion to here the welcoming words of the governor, underscoring Christie’s distance from the Shmuley campaign on this issue.