The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on December 13 that had historical significance. The Committee considered the nominations of five federal judicial nominees selected by President Biden, and among them was Adeel Abdullah Mangi—a seasoned litigator who, if confirmed, would become the first Muslim American to serve as a judge on a federal appellate court. 

Mangi, a law firm partner, has an extensive record of pro bono advocacy serving diverse communities, including litigation and amicus briefs tackling unlawful surveillance of religious groups, prison abuse, and sex discrimination. You would never have guessed that last week, though, as Republican Senators spent the morning trying to cast Mangi as a Brown Boogeyman. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and John Kennedy put on gross displays of Islamophobia, badgering the Muslim attorney about whether he supports the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hamas.

The line of questioning was (very) loosely tied to Mangi’s relationship to Rutgers Law School’s Center for Security, Race and Rights. Mangi is on the advisory board of the Center, a council which meets once a year to provide the Center with advice about academic research. This is to say, Mangi has nothing to do with its day-to-day activities. Nevertheless, Hawley demanded to know if Mangi agreed with a statement by the Center’s Director referring to Israel as a “settler-colonial state.” If you’re wondering what if anything Israel has to do with applying federal law in the states under the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, you are not alone. “Senator, I have no basis, as a judicial nominee, to cast views on the Middle East and what does and does not happen there,” Mangi told Hawley.

Kennedy brought up a controversial event the Center held in 2021 titled “Whose Narrative? 20 Years since September 11, 2001.” Speakers at the event included Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to a controversial charge of conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Dr. Rabab Abulhadi, who once attempted to host a webinar with a Palestinian woman who hijacked a plane in 1969. (That event got shut down.) “Is this the way you celebrate 9/11?” Kennedy asked Mangi. The nominee responded that he “never heard of” the Center’s event “prior to today” and again clarified his limited role related to annually giving the Center research advice.

Cruz also directly asked Mangi if he thinks there is any justification for Hamas’s October 7th attack and if he supported the attacks on 9/11. Mangi, a New Jersey resident who has worked in NYC for decades replied, “Senator, I don’t think anyone feels more strongly about what happened on 9/11 than someone who was there, who saw with their own eyes smoke billowing from the towers.” He additionally confirmed that he has “no patience—none—for any attempts to justify or defend” the October 7th attack and will condemn “any terrorist or any act of terrorism,” and do so “without equivocation.”

Mangi has been a part of a lot of positive meaningful work, and it is despicable for him to be bullied about things he was not a part of because of his faith. The obvious bigotry isn’t necessarily surprising given, well, everything about the Republican party. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

Repeatedly accusing the first Muslim nominee to a federal appeals court of being a terrorist sympathizer is shameful. It would be unseemly for Senators to harass Christian nominees about denouncing the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church or other Christian hate groups they have no actual connection to. The only reason to badger Adeel Mangi about Hamas and—I can’t believe I’m writing this—9/11 is rank Islamophobia. If this is the process by which people ascend to the bench, no wonder the judiciary is in shambles.

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