Gov. Chris Christie, the former federal prosecutor who oversaw several terrorism-related cases after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Thursday that one of his nominations for a Superior Court judgeship will be a lawyer who represented many detainees swept up by the government in the post-9/11 dragnet.
Sohail Mohammed of Clifton won the respect of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies stemming from his work in the aftermath of the terror attacks, trying to build bridges between law enforcement and the Muslim community.
Christie announced his intention to nominate Mohammed, along with six other potential judges, Thursday evening.
Mohammed declined to comment when reached at his home. But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., praised Christie's move.
"It's just more evidence of the growth and maturity of the American Muslim community and our contributions to American society," he said. "We have a large number of young Muslim attorneys coming up through the legal system, which is a fairly recent trend. It used to be that Muslim parents wanted their children to become doctors or engineers."
Christie, a Republican entering his second year in office, still must formally nominate Mohammed, whose candidacy would then be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee before a vote by the full Senate.
Mohammed was on former Gov. Jon Corzine's short list of potential judicial appointees in the last two years of the Democrat's lone term in office, but he was not nominated. He would serve on the court in Passaic County.
A board member of the American Muslim Union, Mohammed worked hard in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks to try to foster trust between American Muslims and law enforcement, particularly federal officials. As U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie was a regular guest at the group's annual Ramadan dinner and spoke highly of Mohammed's interaction with authorities.
Mohammed helped arrange a law enforcement job fair at a Paterson mosque in which young Muslims were encouraged to apply for jobs with law enforcement agencies. The session also featured a frank question-and-answer session between police and prosecutors and mosque members, after which both sides said they came away with a better understanding of the other.
He was also asked to give numerous training sessions to FBI agents on Islam and Muslim culture, to enable agents to better understand the religion and the practices of Muslims.
Mohammed would become the second Muslim Superior Court judge in New Jersey if confirmed. Last year, Hani Mawla was confirmed to the state bench in Somerset County.