Paterson (New Jersey): As the rubble of
ground zero smoldered in the months after the September 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, the investigation was just as hot
across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
More than 1,100 Arabs and Muslims most of them from
New York and northern New Jersey were rounded up and detained
as the FBI feverishly searched for additional terrorists.
In few places was the spotlight as white-hot as in
Paterson, New Jersey, where as many as six of the September 11
hijackers lived or spent time in the weeks before the attacks.
As agents went knocking on doors, asking questions
about religious practices, finances and acquaintances, many
Muslims were cowering on the other side, terrified of being
thrown in jail for crimes they knew nothing about.
A young, soft-spoken Muslim immigration attorney named
Sohail Mohammed represented many people rounded up in New
Jersey in the post-September 11 dragnet. Along the way, the
Indian-American attorney gained the respect and friendship of
many top law enforcement officials for his efforts to build
bridges between the Muslim community and law enforcement and
to help defuse tensions in those incredibly tense days.
He won over one official whose favour would prove
crucial nearly a decade later: the US attorney for New Jersey,
Christie, now the state`s governor and a darling of
the Republican Party, nominated Mohammed to a Superior Court
judgeship. Mohammed was sworn into office last week, becoming
New Jersey`s second Muslim judge. Mohammed, who was born in
Hyderabad, India, is also the state`s first Indian-American