Revered New Jersey Imam, Facing Deportation, Has Interfaith Support

April 24, 2008


Source: The New York Times

For a dozen years, Mohammad Qatanani has supported the members of the Islamic Center of Passaic County by speaking at funerals, hashing out ethical dilemmas and sometimes opening his home to domestic-violence victims at a moment’s notice.

But now Dr. Qatanani, 44, the imam of the mosque here, requires the support of the members: he has been barred by federal immigration authorities from renewing his driver’s license, and must call on friends to ferry him to hospitals for visits with the sick among his flock. There are fund-raisers for him at the mosque. And after Friday prayers, the hugs the men give him seem to last extra long.

The imam, who is Palestinian, and most of his family face deportation because of his detention in Israel decades ago and questions about whether he lied about it on his application for permanent residency, which he made in 1999 and which was recently denied.

The case has galvanized a diverse group of community figures from a variety of faiths who fear the prospect of losing a leader they see as an example of Muslim moderation. Many of them will gather in West Orange on Thursday for an ecumenical dinner in his honor.