Islamist Watch

The Legal Project

The Middle East Forum has established the Legal Project to protect researchers and analysts who work on the topics of terrorism, terrorist funding, and radical Islam from predatory lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech.

The Legal Project is looking for qualified students and adults to work part-time and from home, during a non-paid internship at the Middle East Forum, beginning immediately. For more information and to apply, please contact Daniel Huff at huff@meforum.org. If applying, kindly include one paragraph about yourself as well as your most recent resume and contact information. School credit is available for students.

NEW - Legal Project Blog

Background

Researchers and analysts have been repeatedly targeted in legal actions, including these lawsuits:

  • Khalid bin Mahfouz vs. Rachel Ehrenfeld: Ehrenfeld wrote that Bin Mahfouz had financial links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. He sued her in January 2004 in a plaintiff-friendly British court. He won by default, and was awarded £30,000 and an apology.

  • Iqbal Unus vs. Rita Katz: His house searched in the course of a U.S. government operation, code-named Green Quest, Unus in March 2004 sued Katz, a non-governmental counterterrorist expert, on the grounds that she was responsible for the raid. Unus lost and had to Katz' pay court costs.

  • Council on American-Islamic Relations vs. Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR. CAIR claimed in March 2004 that Whitehead's statements on his website were false, libelous, and "impute the commission of a criminal offense," all of which caused injury to CAIR's "standing and reputation." Two years later, CAIR withdrew the lawsuit.

  • Islamic Society of Boston vs. 17 critics, including the David Project and Steven Emerson. ISB initiated the lawsuit in May 2005, accusing them of defamation and of conspiring to violate the ISB's civil rights through "a concerted, well-coordinated effort to deprive the Plaintiffs … of their basic rights of free association and the free exercise of religion." Two years later, it withdrew the lawsuit.

Such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics." Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will "get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up."

The Threat

We therefore must expect that Islamists will engage in future legal efforts along these lines. Indeed, the Islamic Society of North AmericaMuslim Public Affairs Council have publicly stated that they are considering filing defamation lawsuits against critics. and the

More specifically, the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced in October 2005 the ambitious fundraising goal of raising $1 million in one month, in part to "defend against defamatory attacks on Muslims and Islam." Shortly after, one of its staffers, Rabiah Ahmed, stated that lawsuits are increasingly an "instrument" for it to use. "The Muslim community realizes that it has to respond to these allegations and to these attacks, otherwise, the people who are promoting these defamatory remarks will win in the court of public opinion." CAIR chairman Parvez Ahmed has stated that "People who make statements connecting CAIR to terrorism should understand the legal consequences of their attempted slander and defamation. The First Amendment does not protect defamation." (However, Federal prosecutors have since made this same connection.)

The Larger Picture

The Islamist movement has two wings, one violent and one lawful, which operate apart but often reinforce each other. This was on display in August 2006, when the Heathrow airport plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean provided an opening for Britain's Islamist establishment to press for changes in Middle East policy.

A similar one-two punch works to stifle the free discussion of Muhammad, the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Eruptions against The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, and Pope Benedict, which caused hundreds of deaths, effectively complement lawsuits such as the ISB's. Emerson correctly notes (in reply to the Muslim Public Affairs Council threatening a lawsuit against him for making "false statements") that "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics."

The Legal Project

The Forum will initially establish a network of donors, pro-bono lawyers, researchers, and analysts to participate in this effort.

An Advisory Board will be formed that, among other functions, will review and approve applications for assistance from researchers and analysts. The Legal Project will deploy a variety of tactics, including.

  • Briefings by legal experts on how to avoid libelous statements.
  • Consultations with libel lawyers before publishing on certain topics.
  • Assistance to researchers and analysts who have been unjustly sued.
  • Assistance to researchers and analysts to defend themselves against defamation.

Contact Us

We invite prospective donors, lawyers, and researchers and analysts to contact Brooke Goldstein at goldstein@meforum.org for further details.

Announcements

Irfan Yusuf Apologizes to Daniel Pipes

Irfan Yusuf has recently published an unreserved apology to Dr. Pipes for grossly misrepresenting Dr. Pipes' views in an Australian newspaper. Please see the official press release.

Muslim Weekly Apologizes to Daniel Pipes

The UK publication, the Muslim Weekly, has recently published an unprecedented apology to Dr. Pipes. Please see the official press release.

Irfan Yusuf Apologizes to Daniel Pipes

The Legal Project works to protect anti-Islamist writers and activists so that they can continue their work pointing out the dangers of radical Islam. As this recent news implies, the Project's work must at times go on the offensive to be effective.

The Legal Project Announces its support for the "Libel Terrorism Protection Act"

The legislation introduced by Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) proposes a much-needed First Amendment protection for our country's valuable counter-terrorism authors, researchers and publishers.

Libel terrorism is being waged in the form of frivolous and malicious lawsuits designed to intimidate, silence and bankrupt anyone who speaks out against terrorism, Islamism or its sources of financing. Forum shopping and foreign lawsuits are creating a chilling effect within this country on the exercise of free speech about matters of grave public concern. If enacted the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, proposed in the info-media capital of the U.S., has the potential to protect counter-terrorism authors from meritless libel lawsuits filed by libel terrorists who hide in foreign jurisdictions. Thus, it is paramount that the Libel Terrorism Protection Act be signed into law as soon as possible.

Please consider writing both Assemblyman Lancman and Senator Skelos expressing your support of this important and timely legislation which addresses a real and present problem.

Assemblyman Lancman's email address: rlancman@nyad25.org

Senator Skelos's email address: dunham@senate.state.ny.us

The European Center for Law and Justice Submits Crucial Report to the UN about Freedom of Speech

In response to the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution 7/19, which bans any language blasphemous of Islam and any "attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations," the ECLJ submitted a crucial report detailing, correctly, that freedom of religion does not encompass freedom to practice your religion free of criticism.

Events

Libel Tourism Conference (April 10th 2008)

Publications

Relevant News

YouTube censors comedian's anti-Sharia video called 'Welcome to Saudi Britain'

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 7:57AM BST 04 Oct 2008

Pat Condell, an outspoken atheist and veteran stand-up comic, uploaded the clip called "Welcome to Saudi Britain" to the popular video-sharing website following claims that judgements made under Islamic law are now legally binding.

In the four-minute clip he denounces the "patriarchal bigotry" of Muslim men and the "corrupt" regime of Saudi Arabia.

He refers to women wearing burqas as "letterbox ladies" and ridicules a Muslim warehouse worker who is suing Tesco for making him carry crates of alcohol.

Condell also pours scorn on the "social engineering" and "doublethink" of the Labour Government and urges viewers to sign a Downing Street petition against the adoption of Sharia in Britain, which has received more than 4,000 signatures.

However YouTube, which is owned by the internet search engine giant Google, has removed the video from its site because of "terms of use violation". Read the full text here.

Radical Islamic clerics warn of further attacks after publisher is firebombedBy John Bingham

Hardline clerics said that further attacks would be "inevitable" if publication of the novel, The Jewel of Medina, goes ahead as planned next month.

Police moved in to arrest three men moments after a fire broke out at the London home and office of Martin Rynja in the early hours of Saturday.

The attack came days after Mr Rynja's company, Gibson Square, bought the rights to the book by the American writer Sherry Jones, which has already been likened to Sir Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

The novel, which focuses on the relationship between Mohammed and his child bride Aisha, was recently dropped from publication in the United States by the publishers Random House amid fears that it would anger Muslims.

Read the full text here.

CAIR Files FEC Complaint Over ObsessionBy Robert Spencer

FrontPageMagazine.com

Despite the fact that the film Obsession contains no political content and was made well before the 2008 election cycle began, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, those paragons of Islamic moderation and honesty, would now have you believe that the national distribution of the DVD was an Israeli plot to elect John McCain. And they've filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging just that.

Read the full text here.

Danish Editors Threatened with Prosecution in Jordan for publishing Cartoon of MohammadThe Copenhagen Post

Eleven Danes have been summoned to appear before the Jordanian public prosecutor to answer charges of blasphemy and threatening the national peace. They include the cartoonist who drew one of the Mohammed cartoons and editors from 10 of the 17 newspapers that reprinted them.

The group behind the announcement is called The Prophet Unites Us, a union of Jordanian media organisations, organisations and private individuals.

'The public prosecutor decided to summon the Danes for a series of criminal offences. Now the Danes have to meet in Jordan,' said Zakaria al-Sheikh, the group's general secretary, to Politiken newspaper.

Read the full text here.

Random House Pulls Novel on Islam, Fears ViolenceBy Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Publisher Random House has pulled a novel about the Prophet Mohammed's child bride, fearing it could "incite acts of violence."

"The Jewel of Medina," a debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones, 46, was due to be published on August 12 by Random House, a unit of Bertelsmann AG, and an eight-city publicity tour had been scheduled, Jones told Reuters on Thursday.

The novel traces the life of A'isha from her engagement to Mohammed, when she was six, until the prophet's death. Jones said that she was shocked to learn in May, that publication would be postponed indefinitely. Read the full text here.

CHRC Complaint Against Ezra Levant for Publishing Danish Cartoon Rejected: Hardly a Win for Free SpeechBy Joseph Brean

After a year-long investigation, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission has rejected a complaint by the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities against former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant over his republication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons. Read the full text here.

Foreign Courts Take Aim at Our Free SpeechBy Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman

Our Constitution is one of our greatest assets in the fight against terrorism. A free-flowing marketplace of ideas, protected by the First Amendment, enables the ideals of democracy to defeat the totalitarian vision of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

That free marketplace faces a threat. Individuals with alleged connections to terrorist activity are filing libel suits and winning judgments in foreign courts against American researchers who publish on these matters. These suits intimidate and even silence writers and
publishers. Read the full text here.

Muslim Nations: Defame Islam, Get Sued?by Rukmini Callimach

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The Muslim world has created a battle plan to defend its religion from political cartoonists and bigots. oncerned about what they see as a rise in the defamation of Islam, leaders of the world's Muslim nations are considering taking legal action against those that slight their religion or its sacred symbols. It was a key issue during a two-day summit that ended Friday in this western Africa capital. Read the full text here.

Dutch Cartoonist Who Mocked Muslims Jailed For "Discrimination"By Beila Rabinowitz and William Mayer

May 16, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - In another blow to free speech due to the country's descent into multicultural confusion, a Dutch satirical cartoonist, who writes under the pseudonym of Gregorius Nekschot was arrested this week for discrimination on a warrant ensuing from a 2005 complaint lodged by a Muslim convert, imam Abdul Jabbar Van de Ven.

In a brutal display of intimidation, ten police officers apprehended him while confiscating his computer, backup disks and mobile telephone, without which he can't work. He spent Tuesday night in jail and was released on Wednesday after a lengthy series of interrogations.
Van de Ven gained notoriety when he lauded the 2004 murder of Theo Van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri and said that he hoped to see Dutch MP Geert Wilders meet a similar fate. Read the full text here.

Channel 4 wins Muslim 'preachers of hate' caseBy Richard Edwards

Police and prosecutors have paid out a six-figure sum for wrongly claiming a television expose' of Islamist extremists was faked.

The Crown Prosecution Service and West Midlands Police will apologise "unreservedly" at a High Court hearing today for libelling Channel 4's Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque.

Legal sources said they will pay £50,000 damages and £50,000 costs for falsely claiming the documentary was "misleading" and would stir up racial hatred.

The documentary, screened last year, showed "preachers of hate" making remarks alleged to be homophobic, anti-Semitic and sexist.

Police were called in to investigate the clerics, but after six months dropped the inquiry and turned on Channel 4, asking prosecutors whether they could be charged for stirring up racial hatred. Read the full text here.

Jihad Against Freedom of Speech at the United NationsBy Jeffrey Imm

The United Nations' Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has no problem with its members suggesting that the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job" perpetrated by the United States on itself. The human rights of America's 9/11 victims are not a priority for UNHRC's Richard Falk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, who engages in 9/11 conspiracy propaganda, while working for an organization headquartered in New York City funded by U.S. tax dollars. This is Richard Falk's protected freedom of speech.

Denying the role of Jihadists in the 9/11 attacks is apparently perfectly acceptable freedom of speech for the UNHRC, but criticizing Sharia law is another story. Read the full text here.

Taboo topic sparks critical debate By: Kathy English

In the month since the Star published its investigation into the secret world of polygamy in our community, reporter Noor Javed has braved a firestorm of criticism.

So too has the Star itself, with several complaints about Javed's groundbreaking articles about polygamy within the Muslim community in the GTA coming to the public editor's office. I've spent considerable time looking into these concerns and I think that the Star's reporting on this was accurate, fair and balanced.

I also believe it was a courageous act of journalism for Javed, a Muslim woman who has written illuminating articles for the Star in the past about her spiritual journey to Mecca to fulfill the holy Muslim pilgrimage called the hajj, and also about her choice to wear the Muslim head scarf, the hijab.

As a journalist and a "visible" Muslim who chose to expose evidence of polygamy within the GTA's Muslim community, Javed well knew she would come under fire. But she also believed that reporting on this controversial, "taboo" issue, which is clearly illegal in Canadian law, could spark critical debate among Canadians. Read the full text here.

Dutch Islam critic meets foreign minister on charges in JordanBy DPA

Amsterdam - Dutch Islam critic Geert Wilders praised Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen for taking Jordan's decision to charge Wilders with incitement against Islam seriously, news reports said Thursday.

Wilders had requested the meeting to discuss the consequences of a Jordan public prosecutor's decision to charge him over his 16-minute political film Fitna, released late March.

Wilders said he and Verhagen discussed whether it was likely that another country that he might visit would extradite him to Jordan.

Theoretically, Jordan could file an extradition application through Interpol to a country that Wilders might visit. Read the full text here.

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