Adeel Mangi is a law firm partner and nominee for a federal judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. These traits are unremarkable in and of themselves: Most judges usually are former corporate attorneys, prosecutors, or both. But they are not usually Muslim. And if the Senate confirms him, Mangi will be the first Muslim American federal appeals court judge, which means the conservative legal movement is waging an Islamophobic smear campaign against him. 

Some background: From 2019 to 2023, Mangi sat on the advisory board of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights, created in the wake of the post-9/11 surge of discrimination against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities to conduct research related to religious freedom and racial equality. Mangi says that, as an advisor, he gave the Center research advice once a year. But the Judicial Crisis Network, a right-wing judicial advocacy group run by (of course) one of Justice Clarence Thomas’s former clerks, launched an ad last week that makes a series of misleading statements about the Center and Mangi’s relationship to it—interspersed with footage of the September 11 attacks.

I wish I were exaggerating. But no, really: Images of protesters expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine are followed by video of a gunman grabbing a bloodied woman by the hair, and a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. A voiceover asserts that Mangi is an “antisemite” who “refused to condemn” efforts to “teach students to hate Israel, hate America, and support global terrorism,” and that when “given opportunities to condemn these hateful views, he refused to do so.” The ad name-checks two Democratic senators up for reelection, Montana’s Jon Tester and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, urging them to vote down Mangi’s nomination.

Let’s check the record, shall we? During his nomination hearing and in written follow-up questions last year, Republican senators like Ted Cruz and John Kennedy asked Mangi over and over again about, for example, whether he thinks Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel was justified, whether he supported 9/11, and whether he condemned terrorism and antisemitism. Not only did Mangi indeed condemn all the things this ad suggests he didn’t, he did so at least 23 times.

I know this because I counted. At least seven times, Mangi said, “I condemn all forms of terrorism.” At least seven times, Mangi said “The events of October 7, 2023 were horrific, and I condemn them and any attempts to justify or defend them.” At least five times, Mangi said “I oppose antisemitism.” At least twice, Mangi said “I do not support providing a platform to any terrorists.” At least twice, Mangi said “I have fought throughout my career to oppose all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including prejudice directed at minority groups such as Muslims and Jews, to protect the rights of all people of faith to worship freely, and to ensure that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is protected and effectuated.”

Here are some other notable numbers: Fifteen Jewish organizations have come out in support of Mangi; others have denounced the mistreatment of Mangi as prejudicial and pretextual. One letter concluded, “It is clear to us that Adeel A. Mangi is a person of strength and good deeds, as evidenced by his career, devotion to his community, and commitment to religious freedom and civil rights.” Personally, I trust feedback like this more than I trust political operatives pandering to a constituency who wants all Jews in one place to jumpstart the Rapture.

If Mangi himself were to call out these questions for what they are—irrelevant, insulting, and Islamophobic—he could very well get accused of lacking proper judicial temperament. I face no such limitations, so I’m just going to say it: This is ridiculous! The conservative legal movement is transparently playing to the lowest common denominator, seeing bigotry as a path to block a Biden nominee and maintain conservative control of the judiciary. Mangi is obviously not a terrorist sympathizer, and framing him as such reveals much more about the speaker’s biases than Mangi’s beliefs. No one with at least two brain cells to rub together should fall for this. 

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