PATERSON, N.J. — An Arab-American political candidate who was dumped by Passaic county Democratic leaders for comments some people interpreted as sympathetic to suicide bombers is suing to get on the ballot.
Democrats put forward Sam Merhi’s name as a nominee for a county freeholder seat in the June 6 primary, but withdrew it in March amid political backlash from remarks Merhi made in 2002 about the 9/11 attacks.
Merhi, a Totowa businessman active in Democratic politics, said during a political fundraiser that he was outraged by the 9/11 attacks. When asked whether those feelings also applied to Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel, Merhi said he did not see a comparison. He later elaborated, saying that while all terrorist attacks are wrong, 9/11 was unique because it was on such a massive scale.
The lawsuit alleges that Merhi was the victim of anti-Arab prejudice, saying that his removal as a candidate violated his civil rights and the rules of the Democratic organization. The suit calls for Merhi’s name to be reinstated on the primary ballot.
“The stated reason for the withdrawal was ‘politics,’ but the underlying basis…is the fact that Merhi is an Arab-American and exercised his constitutional right of freedom of speech,” the lawsuit reads, according to The Record of Bergen County for Saturday’s newspapers.