WASHINGTON: Nadia Kahf made history when she took oath in New Jersey this week as the first judge to do so while wearing a hijab. And she took oath by pressing her hand on a copy of the Holy Quran she inherited from her grandmother.
“I’m overwhelmed and very happy and very honored as well,” Judge Kahf, 50, said in an interview to the North Jersey news outlet. “I’m happy the bench is going to reflect (all) residents of New Jersey.”
Ms Kahf specialises in family law and has worked on immigration cases too. Since 2003, she has served on the board of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organisation.
After a year of waiting, Ms Kahf, is now a state Superior Court judge in Passaic County, New Jersey. She was nominated by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
“I am proud to represent the Muslim and Arab communities in New Jersey in the United States,” she said during her swearing in ceremony on Tuesday. “I want the younger generation to see that they can practice their religion without fear that they can be who they are.”
Ms Kahf was nominated to the Superior Court in February 2022, but her nomination was delayed for more than a year, first by State Senator Kristin Corrado who signed off in October.
Ninety elected officials of the State of New Jersey, and hundreds of citizens, wrote letters to Senator Corrado, asking her to “do the right thing and make history by appointing the very first hijabi to the New Jersey Superior Court.”
State senators in New Jersey can use “senatorial courtesy,” an unwritten tradition that allows a lawmaker representing the hometown of a nominee to stall or block their consideration.
Even though Senator Corrado withdrew her hold in October 2022, Judge Kahf’s final confirmation came early this month, almost six months after the objection was withdrawn.
“It is ordered that effective upon taking the judicial oath of office, and until further Order, Superior Court Judge Nadia Kahf is hereby assigned to the Superior Court, Family Division, Passaic County,” said an official order issued on March 3, 2023.
Nadia Kahf immigrated to the United States from Syria when she was 2-year-old. She is the president of the Islamic Centre of Passaic County, one of the state’s largest mosques and is also a legal counsel for Wafa House, a nonprofit domestic violence and social service agency.
Ms Kahf did her B.A. in 1994 from the Montclair State University, which is the second largest public university in New Jersey by enrollment. She received a law degree (Juris Doctorate or JD) from the Seton Hall University, New Jersey. A JD degree is the highest education available in the legal profession in the United States.
She has been practicing law in New Jersey since 2002 and is widely respected as a lawyer.
One of her clients, Clyde B, wrote that her law firm “represented me and my wife in a real estate transaction in New York City. The lawyers and support staff were extremely professional and always responded to our phone calls and emails quickly. Even though we were out of town.”