People For the American Way

Senators: Don’t Let the Islamophobic Agenda Targeting Adeel Mangi Win


First published in The Hill.

We’re living in very divisive political times. But even now, Americans say we still share values that include aspiring to become a country where all can succeed regardless of race, gender or religion.

Fulfilling this promise has always been a challenge, even as most of us keep trying to progress toward this vision of the American Dream.

So, it’s deeply disturbing to see what’s happening to federal judicial nominee Adeel Mangi, whose personal story has always exemplified the American Dream, and who is now being forced to endure ugly religious bigotry.

Mangi is a highly qualified lawyer who emigrated to this country and built a family and a respected career. He chose American citizenship because of his love for our democracy.

President Biden nominated him for a seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a fitting honor for a Harvard-educated lawyer well-known for winning record financial awards for clients in complex cases and his pro bono work on religious liberty.

Now, we’re watching him being hounded by some of the most mean-spirited, bigoted attacks imaginable by people who are weaponizing Islamophobia against him.

Worse, we’re watching people who definitely should know better being influenced by these attacks.

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appallingly asked Mangi at his confirmation hearing if he supported terrorism and the 9/11 attacks, and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) demanded to know if Mangi thought Israel was a “colonial state,” it was disgusting but somewhat predictable.

When the far-right Judicial Crisis Network opened up its enormous checkbook to fund ads making outrageous accusations of antisemitism, it was, again, in character for a group that plays dirty.

When political agitators started claiming, falsely, that this nominee served on the board of a nonprofit for families of the incarcerated because he supports “cop-killers” — something Black and brown people recognize instantly as a familiar racist trope — it was highly unsettling.

But now we’re hearing that somehow these cheap shots are finding a mark, causing the nomination to be “embattled.”

Where is the political will to stop this?

Scores of civil rights groups have come out to support Mangi and push back against the attacks. At least 15 Jewish groups have condemned the charges of antisemitism. More than half a dozen law enforcement groups have gone public with their support, countering the caricature of this mild-mannered nominee as some kind of vicious cop-hater.

And many op-eds and extensive media coverage have shined a light on the disreputable motives and the money behind the attacks.

So it’s not as if senators lack reliable information about the nominee or his attackers.

What some do lack, at this moment, is courage.

And that’s a serious problem because the message being sent and received loud and clear by legal stars who are also Muslims is that their trajectory is limited. You can’t aspire to the tremendous honor that is the highest federal bench short of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals (where Mangi would be the first Muslim judge). You can only get so far and accomplish this much before religious bigots will try to shut you down.

I hope this Senate won’t let that be the takeaway from the Adeel Mangi nomination. That would be a deep injustice and betrayal of what we claim to be our values, not just for one nominee but for our democracy and our society.

There’s still time for the Senate to do the right thing and confirm Mangi. To not do so would be to take a big step backward in our progress toward an America where racism, sexism and religious bigotry no longer limit our dreams.


Biden judges, Islamophobia, judicial nominations