Politics & Policy

Chris Christie’s Islam Problem

New Jersey governor Chris Christie
He has repeatedly sided with some nasty characters.

A Quinnipiac poll in April showed Chris Christie as the most popular potential Republican vice-presidential candidate, thanks to his budget cuts and standing up to government employees’ unions. But the governor of New Jersey has a problem, specifically an Islam problem, that can and should get in the way of his possible ascent to higher office. Time and again he has sided with Islamist forces against those who worry about safeguarding American security and civilization.

Some examples:

2008: When serving as U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie embraced and kissed Mohammed Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, and praised him as “a man of great goodwill.” He did this after Qatanani had publicly ranted against Jews and in support of funding Hamas, a U.S. government–designated terror organization, and on the eve of his deportation hearing for not hiding an Israeli conviction for membership in Hamas. In addition, Christie designated a top aide, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna, to testify as a character witness for Qatanani.

2010: After Derek Fenton burned three pages of a Koran at a 9/11 memorial ceremony, his employer, New Jersey Transit, got Christie’s approval to fire him. Protecting Islam at the expense of the constitutional right to free speech, Christie endorsed Fenton’s termination: “That kind of intolerance is something I think is unacceptable. So I don’t have any problem with him being fired.” The American Civil Liberties Union successfully represented Fenton to get his job back.

#ad#2011: Christie appointed an Islamist, Sohail Mohammed, to the New Jersey state superior court. Mohammed’s record includes serving as general counsel to the American Muslim Union (which has stated that a “Zionist Commando Orchestrated The 9-11 Terrorist Attacks”), acting as spokesman for Muslim prisoners who went on a hunger strike after being jailed during Ramadan, defending Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian (his indictment, Mohammed said, was “nothing but a witch-hunt”), and helping Qatanani’s legal defense. Mohammed established himself not just as the Islamists’ lawyer but as one of them.

When members of New Jersey’s Senate Judiciary Committee asked Mohammed appropriately tough questions about his enthusiasm for Islam’s archaic law code, the Shari’a, Christie ridiculed the lawmakers: “Shari’a law has nothing to do with this [appointment of Mohammed] at all. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. . . . So, this Shari’a law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. I mean, you know, it’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.” For this outburst, unsurprisingly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) thanked and applauded Christie.

2012: The revelation that the New York Police Department had conducted surveillance of Islamists in the New Jersey towns of Newark and New Brunswick prompted not gratitude but outrage from Christie, who termed the action arrogant and paranoid while mocking NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly as “all knowing, all seeing.”

In short, Christie has hugged a terrorist-organization member, abridged free-speech rights, scorned concern over Islamization, and opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts. Whenever an issue touching on Islam arises, Christie takes the Islamist side against those — the DHS, state senators, the NYPD, even the ACLU — who worry about lawful Islamism eroding the fabric of American life.

Two factors render this pattern especially curious: First, soft-on-Islamism policies are common among Democrats but rare among Republicans (Grover Norquist being the major exception). Second, Christie takes an ostentatiously pro-Israel stance, as reflected by his speeches and his recent “Jersey to Jerusalem” trip; this makes him unusual, for a pro-Israel stance typically goes hand-in-hand with concern about Shari’a. How does one reconcile the Christie contradiction?

It could be ego: The governor is more brilliant than we are. It could be that, other than fiscally, he is not a conservative. Or, as several analysts suggest, it could be cynical double pandering: Muslims get what they want most and Zionists get what they want most, with each side ignoring what Christie does for the other. Indeed, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut pursued this double-track policy (soft on Islamism, staunch on Israel) and he became the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate in 2000, when practically no one noticed the contradiction.

Whatever his reasons, we conclude that Chris Christie lacks the moral compass and integrity needed to serve as vice president of the United States.

— Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. © 2012 by the authors. All rights reserved.

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