President Obama has appointed the first Muslim federal judge, a Pakistani immigrant who has practiced law in the United States for 10 years and was educated at American universities, but it’s his ties to Islamists, including those in the Saudi Arabian government, that could prove troubling for senators being asked to approve his nomination.
While Abid Qureshi has never been a judge and thus has no clear record to inspect, his private practice defending Muslim civil rights and the celebration of his appointment by Islamist organizations give reason for concern, say experts in Islam.
Qureshi has defended two Muslim filmmakers in their quest to get pro-Islamic “anti-Islamophobia” advertisements placed in the New York subway system, and he also represented the Saudi Arabian government in a dispute involving a Shariah-compliant Islamic school in the U.S.
His appointment to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which requires Senate approval, was hailed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America.
CAIR and ISNA are offshoots of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood and have links to the Hamas terrorist organization as documented by the FBI during the Holy Land Foundation trial in 2007.
CAIR celebrated Qureshi’s appointment on its Facebook page Wednesday.
“The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of CAIR, said in a statement.
Qureshi has since 2012 headed up the pro bono (charity) division of Latham and Watkins, a major Washington, D.C., law firm.
Going to bat for hard-line Saudi Islamic school in U.S.
His pro bono clients have included prisoners, foreign-educated physical therapists and the National Organization of Concerned Black Men, according to the National Law Journal.
Most troubling for those concerned that Qureshi’s allegiance to Islamic law may influence his view of the U.S. Constitution is his work representing a private school with ties to the hard-line Saudi Arabian government in a case before the National Labor Relations Board.
Abid Qureshi and his team represented the Islamic Saudi Academy, a K-12 private school with the backing of the Saudi government. “The school is on a mission of providing education ‘rooted in the Islamic faith’ to young people of Saudi Arabia residing in the U.S., especially children of government officials and Saudi diplomats,” according to National Law Journal.
The dispute centered on whether the board had jurisdiction over the school’s decision to fire a teacher. Qureshi cleverly cast the case as a matter of religious freedom – and he won the case for the Saudi government school.
“In October, the regional director of the NLRB’s Baltimore office dismissed the claims, embracing [Qureshi’s] argument that any attempt by the NLRB to assert jurisdiction over the academy’s firing of a teacher would encroach on religious freedom,” the National Law Journal reported.
A win for Muslim filmmakers who blast ‘Islamophobes’
In another case, Qureshi represented two Muslim filmmakers in their quest to advertise a pro-Islam documentary called “The Muslims Are Coming!” in the New York public-transit system.
The purpose of the film is to “combat Islamophobia” and counter the anti-Shariah ads that had previously been posted in the New York subway system by anti-Shariah activist Pamela Geller.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority denied the ads, as it did Geller’s, saying they did not conform to its new rules against ads that are “political in nature.” The filmmakers hired Qureshi, who filed suit against the MTA, obtaining a favorable ruling last October, Newsweek reported.
“I wonder how this Muslim judge would rule in my First Amendment cases before the federal court,” Geller told WND in an email. “Would he stand firmly with the freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment, or would he defer to his belief system and rule in accordance with the Shariah? His activity in regard to ‘The Muslims Are Coming!’ strongly suggest the latter.”
Watch trailer for “The Muslims Are Coming!”
According to the documentary’s Facebook page, “The Muslims Are Coming! is a comedy documentary which follows a band of Muslim-American comedians as they visit big cities, small towns, rural villages, and everything in between to combat Islamophobia!”
The whole idea of “Islamophobia” is based on the premise that Islam is above reproach and cannot be criticized the way other religions routinely get lampooned and mocked by journalists, Hollywood movies and entertainers, on social media and throughout pop culture. This “above reproach” mentality, where anyone who dares to criticize Islam gets labeled as a racist or bigot, is seen as a form of voluntary Shariah by activists and watchdogs such as Geller and Robert Spencer. There is no comparable “Christphobia,” they argue, for those who criticize Christianity.
Comedy icons appearing in the film include Jon Stewart, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Colin Quinn, Lewis Black and Aasif Mandvi. Also appearing are media personalities Rachel Maddow, Russell Simmons, Soledad O’Brien and Ali Velshi. The nation’s first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also appears in the film to “comment on the power of comedy and the political scope of bigotry.”
In the opening seconds, the film takes aim at televangelist Pat Robertson, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and comedian Bill Maher and singles them out as examples of “Islamophobes.”
Maher, an atheist, criticizes all religious activity by all religions, but the film is only concerned about his criticism of Islam.
Daniel Akbari, a certified Shariah lawyer and Islamic expert for the Supreme Court of Iran who defected to America and now lives in Texas as a Christian, said the U.S. media has watered down the term “Muslim” to include anyone from the Middle East who is not a Christian, a Jew or any other religion.
Muslims come in several forms, including cultural “Muslims” who are basically atheist or agnostic and do not practice their faith.
But an “Islamist” is anyone who “practices Islam,” Akbari said, and follows the teachings of Muhammad.
“The Islamic scholars have a term for that. It’s someone who ‘believes’ and who practices Islam. And in the West, we would say that’s radical,” he said. “Coming from the Middle East, we call them a Muslim. But are they agnostic or atheist Muslims, or are they a believing Muslim? Someone who goes to mosque regularly is an Islamist. Unfortunately in the U.S., they have changed the perception.
“If they are a practicing Muslim and not just a cultural Muslim, that is not your harmless neighbor.”
While all Islamists are not terrorists, they do believe in Shariah as being superior to any Western form of law.
“An Islamist is one that has an orthodox understanding of Islam. CAIR, ISNA, all have an orthodox understanding of the authoritative Islamic sources. If you have that, then you believe orthodox rules must rule a person’s life,” Akbari said. “If you are pro- even one law of Shariah, you are an Islamist. If you are someone coming from the Middle East and say, ‘I don’t give a damn about Muhammad and about Islam, but I’m a Muslim,’ then you are not a problem. But if you are talking about someone with an orthodox understanding of Islam, then we should have a problem with you being a judge.”
“So we don’t know if Mr. Qureshi is an Islamist or just a Muslim. But since I’m seeing on Twitter that CAIR and ISNA and all those activists for Shariah are supporting him, I’m suspicious he is an Islamist.”
“CAIR and ISNA supporting this person is just super suspicious and gives some credibility to the idea that he is an Islamist.”
Liberals have “hijacked” the word Muslim and made it apply to any person who is from the Middle East and not a Christian or a Jew, Akbari said.
“But more than 70 percent of Iranians don’t believe in the Quran, don’t believe in Shariah, and I’m telling you they are atheist,” he said.
Islamist is a “super holy term” in the Quran that is reserved for those who follow all the teachings of Muhammad.
“Quran says if you are Muslim, you are just immune from attack, but you don’t go to paradise,” he said. “If you are going to paradise, you have to fight against infidels and practice Shariah. So if someone is pro-Shariah, that person is, as the Quran says, part of the ‘momin’ or a ‘believer,’ not just someone who prays and does the five pillars, because that five pillars goes nowhere in paradise. The Quran says you must go further, meaning practice Shariah.”
Spencer, who blogs at JihadWatch.com, told WND that even if Qureshi’s record is unblemished by any connections to terror-stained groups or persons, the appointment is an ominous sign about the future of American politics.
“Even if this judge’s background is spotless and patriotism unquestionable, this appointment bodes ill for the future. The Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton, deny that jihad terror has anything to do with Islam,” Spencer told WND in an email. “They have assiduously courted, supported and collaborated with the Muslim Brotherhood. How will they be able to vet potential judicial appointees who are Muslim for sympathies to a jihad they don’t admit exists, much less Shariah supremacism and more?”
Born in Pakistan, Qureshi received a bachelor of arts degree in 1993 from Cornell University and a juris doctor in 1997 from Harvard. He has been a partner since 2006 in the D.C. offices of Latham & Watkins. He has served since 2012 as the global chairman of the firm’s pro bono practice.
The fact that CAIR is hailing the appointment is also not a good sign, Spencer said.
“It suggests that they know he is in line with their agenda – they don’t hail Muslims who aren’t,” he said.