GOP senators barrage Biden’s Muslim court nominee with hostile, inappropriate questions at hearing

As might be expected, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, denounced the Republican senators for their questioning of the Muslim-American attorney in a statement issued on Friday. The statement read:

We strongly condemn Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley for subjecting Mr. Mangi to irrelevant, hostile questions about Israel and Palestine. Singling out a Muslim judicial nominee and forcing him to answer ‘gotcha questions’ about the Middle East simply because of faith or because of his tangential connections to Muslims who comment on the Middle East is Islamophobic and un-American. So is raising the hateful trope that presumptively assumes that Muslims are antisemitic. All U.S. senators should reject this nonsense and start assessing Muslim American judicial nominees based on their expertise and qualifications, like all other nominees.

On Tuesday, 15 Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women, issued their own statement declaring their “strong support” for Mangi’s nomination. The group’s letter was first reported by HuffPost. The Jewish groups wrote:

The Talmud asserts that appointing a judge who is biased or ill-prepared for the role is considered so terrible that it is akin to one of the greatest sins in the Jewish tradition. In Adeel A. Mangi, the Senate has the opportunity to confirm one of the most preeminent lawyers with an impeccable career and credentials that more than prepare him for a lifetime position on our federal courts.

And after describing some of Mangi’s legal accomplishments, the groups concluded:

Having ethical and unbiased judges is ingrained in our Jewish teachings in which we are taught that “judges need to be people of strength through good deeds.” 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.

Biden nominated Mangi last month for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, based in Philadelphia. If confirmed, Mangi would be only the third Muslim American judge in the federal judiciary.

The Senate previously confirmed two other Muslim Americans nominated by Biden as U.S. district judges: Zahid Quraishi became the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history in 2021, and, in 2023, Bangladeshi American Nusrat Choudhury, the legal director for the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, was confirmed as the first Muslim woman on the federal bench.

At Mangi’s Senate confirmation hearing, New Jersey’s two senators, Robert Menendez and Corey Booker, introduced the nominee who lives in North Jersey. Booker praised Mangi not only for his distinguished career as a private lawyer but for pro bono work that has made him “a star for justice when it comes to religious freedom and religious liberty.”

And a fact sheet put out by the liberal Alliance for Justice highlighted Mangi’s sterling record. Mangi, who has law degrees from both Oxford University and Harvard, rose though the ranks to become a partner at the prestigious corporate law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.  Benchmark Litigation named Mangi to its 2023 and 2024 lists of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” in the U.S.

In his pro bono work, Mangi successfully represented two different Muslim communities in New Jersey towns that were denied permission to build new mosques. He also won a $5 million settlement in a civil case brought by the family of a Black man who was killed by white corrections officers in a New York state prison.

Mangi filed numerous briefs in support of religious communities regarding such issues as unlawful surveillance and former President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He also was involved in litigation to protect LGBTQ+ workers from sex discrimination. He filed briefs to oppose policies advocated by Trump on the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and government funding for constructing a border wall.

But Republicans have a very different opinion about religious liberty, emphasizing the supposed victimhood of Christian conservatives but ignoring the rights of Muslims. And Mangi’s confirmation hearing turned ugly when Cruz, Cotton, and Hawley began yelling and interrupting the nominee.

When asked by Cruz whether he sees any justification for Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, Mangi responded: “I have no patience―none―for any attempts to justify or defend those events,’” as quoted by Huffpost.

And the grilling didn’t stop there, according to HuffPost: 

Cruz also tried to tie Mangi to a professor at Rutgers Law School who signed on to a 2021 pro-Palestinian letter denouncing the “colonial conditions” that Palestinians live under. That professor was associated with a center at the university, the Center for Security, Race, and Rights. At the time, Mangi served on an advisory panel that met once a year to present ideas for academic research at Rutgers Law School.

“Do you believe that Israel is an occupying force in Palestine?” Cruz asked, referring to the letter that professor had signed.

Mangi said he had no idea about the letter, and reiterated that he served on an advisory board that met annually and focused on academic research at the law school.

Finally, it reached the point where the committee chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, repeatedly banged his gavel to tell Cruz to let the nominee finish his answers.

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