A Clifton man could become the first Muslim state judge in New Jersey.
Sen. John Girgenti said he recently submitted the name of Sohail Mohammed to Governor Corzine's office, asking the governor to consider the prominent North Jersey Muslim for a Superior Court judgeship.
"I have known him for a number of years, and he's extremely well qualified," Girgenti, D-Hawthorne, said Thursday. "I based it on his integrity and intelligence. He's very fair."
Mohammed, who specializes in immigration law, is a Sunni Muslim who has worked to educate the public about Islam and to build bridges between his community and the state's political and law enforcement establishments.
Mohammed said Thursday it is premature to discuss the potential judgeship but added that he feels honored.
"I'm really humbled," said Mohammed, 44. "If chosen to be a judge, I would do my best to serve and see that justice is served."
Girgenti's submission of Mohammed's name signals the start of a lengthy evaluation process that includes interviews and background checks and will probably not conclude until 2008, the senator said.
In New Jersey, the governor makes nominations for judges that then go before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate.
Girgenti, who is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Mohammed said they know of no Muslims serving as state judges. Tamara Kendig, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Judiciary, said the state does not track the religious affiliation of its judges.
A New Jersey Muslim leader said the potential appointment is exciting.
"I think it helps the general public realize that Muslims are part of the fabric of American society," said Afsheen Shamsi of the New Jersey office of the Council on American Islamic Relations. "Just like them, we are law-abiding citizens who believe in justice and equality for all. This is a good step toward Muslims achieving the American dream." (MORE)