US Muslim: From 9/11 detainee lawyer to judge
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 02, 2011, 11:49
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, Chris Christie.

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 judge.


First Published: Tuesday, August 02, 2011, 10:48

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