In anticipation of the deportation proceedings of Imam Mohammad Qatanani of the Islamic Center of Passaic in New Jersey, New York Times trumpeted "Revered New Jersey Imam, Facing Deportation, Has Interfaith Support." And indeed, the Imam has had various "interfaith" leaders testify on his behalf, as reported by Newsday:
Several Catholic priests and a Jewish rabbi became emotional on the stand when describing how much Qatanani had done for interfaith understanding.
Qatanani is accused of having lied on his immigration documents both about his arrest and conviction in Israel (which he now claims was merely a "detention") and his confession that he was a member of Hamas (which he now claims was procured under torture). Qatanani also claims he only recently became aware of his conviction by Israeli authorities. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Heather Philpott has testified:
…during the 2005 meeting Qatanani admitted he had been arrested and convicted by Israeli authorities, and that he had been advised by an attorney at the time to plead guilty to being a member of Hamas and sign an affidavit to that effect.
News reports have alternately described Qatanani as "revered" (see New York Times above), "influential," and "respected." Likewise, all media reports have outlined both the charges against Qatanani and his excuses, bolstered by a coterie of quotes from supporters about how revered, influential and respected Qatanani is.
What those stories do not detail is Qatanani's history of attending radical conferences in the United States, nor his frequent use of incendiary rhetoric in speeches and sermons.
Qatanani was a speaker at an Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) conference in Chicago on November 27, 1999, introduced as the new imam of the Patterson Islamic Center in New Jersey. IAP conferences are not good venues to participate or attend if one is trying to disprove an association with Hamas.
IAP is no longer an active organization, but for years it was a central player in Hamas' U.S. support network. Mousa Abu Marzook, currently the Deputy Political Bureau Chief for Hamas in Damascus, gave IAP $490,000 and is a former IAP board member. In a 2001 memo, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service identified IAP as "part of Hamas' propaganda apparatus." In the summer of 2007, the Dallas trial charging the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) with providing material support for Hamas produced extensive evidence that IAP played a central role in the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee, shorthand for Hamas' U.S.-based infrastructure. This earned IAP the distinction of being named an unindicted coconspirator in the trial.
In a September 2004 Herald News article titled, "HAMAS: Charitable cause or terror organization? It depends on whom you ask," Qatanani came out in favor of supporting the families of suicide bombers:
Mohammad Qatanani, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, posed a hypothetical question: What if the charity did support the children of suicide bombers? What would be wrong with that, he wondered?
"There is a big issue between supporting them before, not after," suicide attacks, he said.
He compared the support of orphans of suicide bombers to supporting the children of terrorists like Timothy McVeigh for instance, or the children of the man who killed former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The children are innocent, even if their parents might not be, he said.
In the indictment, however, the government makes the case that by supporting dead terrorists' families, Holy Land "effectively rewarded past, and encouraged future, suicide bombings and terrorist activities on behalf of Hamas."
Unsurprisingly, during the HLF trial, Qatanani publicly prayed for the Hamas-linked defendants, stating:
Oh Allah assist our brothers and sisters in Filastin, and Iraq and Chechnya. O Allah remove occupation and oppression and oh Allah improve the matters of our community, subhanahu wa ta'ala to assist our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land Foundation, ask oh Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to assist them and to remove the difficulty that they have been inflicted with all of the brothers and sisters in this country, oh Allah to prove them non-guilty.
A month earlier in another sermon, this respected influential leader condemned Christians to eternal hellfire, castigating them as hypocrites:
The people who commit such atrocity [hypocrisy] will be the swiftest in punishment on the day of judgment as Abdullah … narrated, the worst punishment that will people be taken are three people – the hypocrites and those who have disbelieved, from the followers of Jesus peace and blessing be upon him have disbelieved after the table came down, and the people of Pharaoh will be swiftly punished as well and they'll be amongst the hypocrites. And Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says about the hypocrites, the hypocrites are in the lower pits of hellfire.
These incendiary sermons aren't even well hidden from the public. Rather, they're available on the Islamic Center of Passaic County's website. In English.
And yet, less than a year later, Newsday reported that "several Catholic priests," or, as Qatanani referred to them, "followers of Jesus," became emotional on the stand - testifying in Qatanani's defense. Perhaps Qatanani's interfaith character witnesses were unaware that they had been damned to hell by none other than the man they came to defend.
Perhaps Qatanani's interfaith defenders are also unaware of his characterization of "Greater Syria" – including all of Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine (including Israel) as "Muslim land," and that fighting to conquer these lands is a divine commandment:
You see then the blessed prophet brothers and sisters chooses that the land of Greater Syria, and that includes Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria – it is the Greater of Syria, these Assyria and Jordan was done by the occupation. You see that if you truly believe in these borders that means you believe in what the occupationer did. You see Syria, Palestine it's all the Greater Syria, Bilad al-Sham, it is the Greater Syria. You know some people might not like this, but this is the truth – it's all the Muslim land, this is Greater Syria, and Allah had called it in five places in the Quran as a blessed place. And it was narrated in a hadith that they are the most beloved lands to Allah. You see listen to the blessed prophet, says that he gives the companions good tidings that the greater Syria will be actually conquered. You see if you conquer the Holy Land or Al Aqsa Masjid that you are in struggle till the hereafter.
As both Christians and Jews claim the rights in much of Lebanon and Palestine, Qatanani's views are hardly compatible with constructive interfaith dialogue, never mind his divine prescription that Muslims should conquer those territories. Qatanani is only the latest "interfaith" Muslim leader to face deportation charges for lying on his immigration documents, as well as having connections to a Palestinian terrorist group. Fawaz Damra, formerly of the Islamic Society of Cleveland, was denaturalized and deported for failing to disclose his ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and related U.S.-based entities on his immigration forms.
After Damra was indicted, "interfaith" leaders railed to support him, until videos emerged in which he referred to Jews as "monkeys and pigs" and was raising money for the PIJ. After this information was revealed, Damra apologized and claimed that he had reformed and that his views had changed. He was eventually convicted and deported to the West Bank. His partner in crime, literally, Sami Al-Arian, who Damra once introduced at his mosque as a PIJ leader, is currently in the custody of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, possibly facing an indictment on criminal contempt charges for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the terrorist ties of a Northern Virginia think tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought.
Qatanani's three day hearing ended Monday afternoon, but has been extended. A decision on his fate is expected in the near future. But as both Damra and Qatanani (and Al-Arian) have demonstrated, "interfaith" leaders with ties to Palestinian terrorist groups cannot be trusted.
 IAP 3rd Annual Conference, Chicago, November 25-27 1999.
 Mohammad Qatanani, Sermon, "The role of reading in the revival of ummah," July 27, 2007.
 Mohammad Qatanani, Sermon, "A Warning Against Hypocrisy," June 8, 2007.
 Mohammad Qatanani, Sermon, ""In the Shadow of Al-Isra Wa Al Miraj," August 3, 2007.