The state of New Jersey got its first Muslim American Superior Court judge June 30, as Sohail Mohammed, a former engineer from Hyderabad, took his oath of office.
Following contentious confirmation hearings in the New Jersey State Senate, Mohammed, 47, who became interested in law after serving jury duty, began working July 1 in Passaic County Superior Court’s Family Division.
“I am deeply, deeply honored to be representing the two greatest democracies in the world: India and the US,” Mohammed said, adding that he hoped to create a process in his courtroom that left people’s dignity intact, regardless of whether they had won or lost.
Mohammed, who earned his law degree in night school at Seton Hall University while working for GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems, said he has already ruled on a number of adoption cases.
“You see the kids in court, and there are such smiles on their faces. They are already saying, ‘This is my mommy; this is my daddy,’” related Mohammed, who emigrated from India with his parents when he was 10.
“One kid asked to touch the gavel. I lifted him up and he gave the gavel a loud bang. It was such a moving experience,” he said.
Mohammed refused to comment on his combative confirmation hearings, saying only, “It was a process.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had nominated Mohammed for the post Jan. 14, and the attorney had told India West in an earlier interview that he expected his nomination to be fast-tracked through the confirmation process.
At his confirmation hearing June 29, Mohammed was grilled extensively about his ties to radical Islamist groups, and his opinion of Sharia law. Republican state Senator Gerald Cardinale, asked Mohammed about the organization Hamas and also asked him to define the term jihad.
Cardinale also asked Mohammed if he had ever objected to the term “Islamo terrorist.”
Republican state Senator Joseph Kyrillos asked Mohammed why there was not more condemnation from Muslims about terrorism.
In an editorial, local columnist Bruce Lowry likened Mohammed’s confirmation hearings to a “witch hunt.”
Jolsna John, president of the North American South Asian Bar Association, said the accusations levied against Mohammed were ridiculous.
“Just because your name is Mohammed does not mean you’re a terrorist,” she said.
“Sohail has done some really great work for our community,” said John, noting that Mohammed, post 9-11, had worked to build bridges between law enforcement and the Muslim American community… The Muslim Observer