New Jersey Gets Its First Muslim American Judge

By Sunita Sohrabji   

sohailconfirmed_72211The state of New Jersey got its first Muslim American Superior Court judge June 30, as Sohail Mohammed, a former engineer from Hyderabad, took his oath of office.

Following contentious confirmation hearings in the New Jersey State Senate, Mohammed, 47, who became interested in law after serving jury duty, began working July 1 in Passaic County Superior Court’s Family Division.

“I am deeply, deeply honored to be representing the two greatest democracies in the world: India and the U.S.,” Mohammed said, adding that he hoped to create a process in his courtroom that left people’s dignity intact, regardless of whether they had won or lost.

Mohammed, who earned his law degree in night school at Seton Hall University while working for GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems, said he has already ruled on a number of adoption cases.

“You see the kids in court, and there are such smiles on their faces. They are already saying, ‘This is my mommy; this is my daddy,’” related Mohammed, who emigrated from India with his parents when he was 10.

“One kid asked to touch the gavel. I lifted him up and he gave the gavel a loud bang. It was such a moving experience,” he said.

Mohammed refused to comment on his combative confirmation hearings, saying only, “It was a process.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had nominated Mohammed for the post Jan. 14, and the attorney had told India-West in an earlier interview that he expected his nomination to be fast-tracked through the confirmation process.

At his confirmation hearing June 29, Mohammed was grilled extensively about his ties to radical Islamist groups, and his opinion of Sharia law. Republican state Senator Gerald Cardinale, asked Mohammed about the organization Hamas – defined by the U.S. as a terrorist group – and also asked him to define the term jihad.

Cardinale also asked Mohammed if he had ever objected to the term “Islamo terrorist.”

Republican state Senator Joseph Kyrillos asked Mohammed why there was not more condemnation from Muslims about terrorism.

In an editorial, local columnist Bruce Lowry likened Mohammed’s confirmation hearings to a “witch hunt.”

Jolsna John, president of the North American South Asian Bar Association, said the accusations levied against Mohammed were ridiculous.

“Just because your name is Mohammed does not mean you’re a terrorist,” she said.

“Sohail has done some really great work for our community,” said John, noting that Mohammed, post 9-11, had worked to build bridges between law enforcement and the Muslim American community.

NASABA reached out to Mohammed during his confirmation process, said John, who encouraged other South Asian Americans to apply for judgeships, adding that her organization could provide help and resources.

Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York chapter, told India-West that the New Jersey state Senate had created a double standard during Mohammed’s confirmation process.

“This tells Muslim Americans that their service, their acts of patriotism, aren’t as valuable as those of other Americans,” stated McGoldrick.

“Muslims are being told on the one hand ‘acculturate within your larger community,’ yet our institutions and our people are being shut out,” he said.

Mohammed is a board member of the American Muslim Union and an executive board member of the New Jersey Bar Association. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammed represented more than 30 undocumented immigrants who were not affiliated with the attacks, but caught up in sweeps by federal agents. The father of three boys has trained the FBI on Islamic culture and arranged a job fair in New Jersey where young Muslims could apply for jobs with law enforcement agencies.

Mohammed, who formerly practiced immigration law in Clifton, New Jersey, told India-West he has disbanded his solo practice, handing his clients off to other attorneys.

“It was really sad for me,” he said. “But there’s a greater good to be done out there.”


Community News (V13-I29)

Sohail Mohammed sworn in

NEW JERSEY,NJ–Indian born Sohail Mohammed was sworn in on July 1st as a Superior Court judge in Passaic County. He is the first Indian-American judge in New Jersey. He is also probably the first Muslim judge in the state.

Born in Hyderabad, Mohammed came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 17. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1988 from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and then worked full-time for GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems in New Jersey.

At the same time, he worked on his law degree at the Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, N.J. doing evening classes.

In 2009, he was named among the 101 most influential people in New Jersey by the New Jersey Monthly magazine. He was on the New Jersey “Super Lawyer” list six years running from 2006 to 2011.

Faheem Zaman bags Thiel Fellowship

NEW YORK,NY–Paypal founder Peter Thiel’s Thiel Foundation has announced its first batch of 20 under 20 fellows. The fellowship awards $100,000 to teenagers to drop out of higher education for two years and invest the time in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Among the fellows is Faheem Zaman who  has shot the moon on nearly every SAT test he’s ever taken: 5580 points across 5 tests. He wants to decentralize banking in the developing world with a mobile payment system. Because savings are difficult in poor countries—including in some regions of South Asia where many have to hoard and protect cash—Faheem believes mobile financial services will help bring prosperity to these areas. Before he introduces his technology to the developing world, Faheem’s initial plan is to gain a foothold in the U.S. market for mobile financial services.

Ayman Khan wins water scholarship

LONG ISLAND,NY–Lynbrook High School students Ayman Khan wAS awarded a $2,500 scholarship in a recent ceremony in Albany by Long Island American Water. She is one of the two local winners of the National Association of Water Companies New York Chapter (NAWC-NY) Scholarship program.

Both students  showed a bold passion for the environment and the water industry through their applications and essays,” said William Varley, chairman of the NAWC-NY and President of Long Island American Water. “These students displayed great potential, and we are excited to award each of them a scholarship to help in their pursuit to achieving success in the water industry.”

The NAWC-NY launched this scholarship program for high school seniors interested in pursuing a career in the water utility industry or related fields.  As a member of NAWC-NY, Long Island American Water offered two scholarships to high school students in its service area who will be attending a university or college in New York and pursuing a degree related to the water utility industry or related field.

Ayman Khan will be attending the City College of New York in the fall. She has held leadership roles in numerous organizations, including serving as President of Students Taking Active Roles (START) and Secretary of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). She has also received numerous awards including the Long Island Science Congress Merit Award, Discus Award and President’s Volunteer Award

Khan leaving Samsung for Citibank

NEW YORK,NY–The Chief Technology Officer  at Samsung Mobile’s USA group, Omar Khan, has announced that he is leaving the company for a position at Citibank heading up the financial company’s global mobile efforts. Khan led the unveiling of the revised Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 tablets on stage at CTIA for Samsung earlier this year, as he has done for many of Samsung’s mobile devices over the past three years. Khan formerly worked as a VP for Motorola before joining Samsung. In the recent past Khan often introduced the company’s tablets and Galaxy phones at events.

At Citibank he will reportedly be leading its mobile initiatives.

Dr. Maha Hussain leads study on prostate cancer drug

A study led by Dr. Maha Hussain shows that a prostate cancer drug may prevent bone metastatis, reports the Renal and Urology News.  The  promising results for cabozantinib, a new therapeutic agent for castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), particularly against tumors that have metastasized to the bone. In a phase 2 study of men (median age 68 years) with metastatic CRPC (mCRPC) who were followed for a median of four months, 47% of the 100 evaluable patients had undergone prior treatment with docetaxel. Seventy-eight percent had bone metastasis. Among the 65 patients evaluable by bone scan, 56 (86%) experienced complete or partial resolution of bone lesions as early as week 6 of cabozantinib treatment. In addition, 64% of the 28 men receiving narcotics for bone pain had improved pain relief, with narcotics reduced or halted in 46%. By week 12, the disease control rate was 71%. Cabozantinib, an inhibitor of the MET and VEGF pathways, showed clinical activity regardless of prior docetaxel therapy.