There are "wonderful, hard-working, peace-loving Muslim-Americans," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday, making a statement that could add to the concerns surfacing about his pro-Islamic views.
"We have the second-largest Muslim-American population," the GOP candidate said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program
about his state. "I have a great relationship with the Muslim-American community in my state. I've worked with them, hosted them as our guests as governor."
But the fact is, Christie said, "we can't categorize people just by their religion" and "I know from seven years as a federal prosecutor there's a big difference between someone who is a peaceful, hard working Muslim-American and someone who focuses on their religion."
Christie said he also believes that a hard push isn't needed to gain intelligence from Muslims, as he has seen that happen while he was a prosecutor.
"We need to keep them as an asset both in our state in general and the war against terror," said Christie.
On Monday, though, Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst for the Clarion Project, told Newsmax in an interview that the issue of Christie's relationships with Muslims
could "hurt his credibility on national security."
Over the years, Christie has remained close to several of his state's Muslim leaders, including Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who has been fighting deportation by the Department of Homeland Security after he did not reveal that Israel had convicted him for belonging to the Hamas terrorist group.
However, Christie had spoken out against bringing refugees from Syria into his state, and had said he was going to issue a directive to follow that policy, but told the program Tuesday that immigration is in hands of the federal government.
"In the end, the federal government controls immigration policy and will override any directive that we put out," said Christie.
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