A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Thor in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A New Jersey based Muslim cleric convicted of being a member of Hamas is fighting deportation after US federal authorities said he failed to disclose the information on his green card application, according to the New York Daily News Saturday.
Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who was found guilty of being a member of the terror organization by an Israeli court in 1993, had his residency revoked after the US Department of Homeland Security voided a prior immigration court ruling in 2008, allowing the religious leader to remain in the country.
His appeal was set for Monday afternoon, but it remains unclear when a final decision by the federal authorities will be made.
Qatanani, who heads the Islamic Center of Passaic County, denies taking part in any political or militant activities for Hamas, despite his brother-in-law being a senior military leader within the terror group.
The Imam further argued that he was never made aware of his conviction nor was he ever presented before a judge, adding he was mentally and physically abused by Israeli authorities during his detention.
Speaking on the cleric's behalf days before the appeal, Nabil Abbassi, chairman of the mosque's board of trustees, said: "The Imam showed and proved to the community at large and to everyone that he is not only deserving of becoming a citizen, he is an exceptional citizen of the US."
Born in the West Bank, Qatanani first came to the US from Jordan on a religious worker visa in 1996, and quickly garnered a positive reputation for forging bonds with different faiths within the community.
Then attorney general for the state of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christy said of Qatanani in 2008 that he was a "man of great goodwill," and added "he's always had a very good relationship with us," according to the Daily News.
The United States and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.