Once Embraced by Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Muslims Feel Betrayed

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Source: The New York Times

The invitation arrived by email, bearing the seal of the State of New Jersey and the name of its new governor, Chris Christie. It asked a select group of Muslim leaders to break the daily Ramadan fast at Mr. Christie’s home, and began with a traditional Muslim salutation.

“Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be with you),” the greeting, from summer 2010, read. “Wishing you a happy and blessed Ramadan.”

With the gathering, at an evening meal known as Iftar, Mr. Christie opened what Muslim leaders recall as a period of exceptional warmth between the state’s sizable Muslim community and a prominent Republican. The governor became a fierce defender of local Muslims, rebuking his party in forceful terms for its hostility to a proposed Islamic center in Manhattan, and denouncing what he called “the crazies” on the right for attacking a Muslim lawyer Mr. Christie had selected for a judgeship.

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Mohammed Hameeduddin, with coat and tie, at prayer in 2012, when he was the mayor of Teaneck. “He has abandoned us and moved on,” he said of Mr. Christie.CreditRobert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Most distressing, to advocates for New Jersey’s Muslim community, has been Mr. Christie’s rigid stance on refugees fleeing Syria: Citing his distrust of President Obama’s administration to screen them for security risks, Mr. Christie has called for a full stop to the settling of refugees in the United States.

That includes, he said on a radio show, “orphans under 5.”

Community leaders say Mr. Christie has also missed opportunities to speak out, in the thunderous tones they have come to expect, about what they see as flagrantly hateful remarks from other Republicans. Donald J. Trump has called for intensive monitoring of Muslim-Americans, and has repeated a widely debunked myth that throngs of Muslims in Jersey City celebrated on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Christie has responded in restrained terms, stating that he had no recollection of mass celebrations in New Jersey, and warning in a statement against an “indiscriminate” crackdown on Muslim communities. But while he has called Mr. Trump’s account “factually wrong,” Mr. Christie has said it would be pointless to confront the wealthy provocateur more aggressively.

To some Muslims in the state, who viewed Mr. Christie as an energetic and unexpected champion, his comments about refugees and his cautious response to the emboldened hard right have come as a disorienting letdown.

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