Attacking the First Amendment, Part II

Monday, August 6th, 2007 10:49 am by Neal
“Alms for Jihad” is the latest target of Saudi Sheiks who are using British libel laws to censor American authors and destroy their books.

Kudos to Stanley Kurtz for sounding the alert on the latest case of libel tourism — the use of foreign libel laws to censor American authors.

The current case involves the recall and pulping of the book “Alms for Jihad: Charity And Terrorism in the Islamic World,” by J. Millard Burr and Robert O Collins. Good luck trying to find a copy as Cambridge University Press has recalled all unsold copies for destruction. Cue your favorite Nazi book-burning video. Kurtz highlights what’s at stake here:

The issues at stake include freedom of speech, national sovereignty, the legal and social effects of the Internet, and the war on terror. Several questions present themselves, including: 1) Is mainstream media coverage failing as a direct or indirect outcome of the earlier suits? 2) Did the earlier suits leveled at major newspapers and magazines include specific agreements forbidding future coverage? 3) Are American libraries complying with Cambridge University Press’s letter calling for the withdrawal of Alms for Jihad from their shelves? 4) What, if any, are their legal obligations to comply? 5) Are libraries that chose not to comply in any danger? 5) Why are we not hearing anything more from the American publishing industry about the threat they are under?

This is an extraordinary attack on American author’s Right to Free Speech. What’s behind this madness? Mark Steyn gets to the bottom of it:

Unfortunately, if you then try to buy “Alms for Jihad,” you discover that the book is “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” Hang on, it was only published last year. At Amazon, items are either shipped within 24 hours or, if a little more specialized, within four to six weeks, but not many books from 2006 are entirely unavailable with no restock in sight.

Well, let us cross the ocean, thousands of miles from the Amazon warehouse, to the High Court in London. Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of “Alms for Jihad” and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves. …

In October 2001, the Treasury Department named Muwafaq as “an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen” and its chairman as a “specially designated global terrorist.” As the Treasury concluded, “Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief.”

Indeed, this “charity” seems to have no other purpose than to fund jihad. It seeds Islamism wherever it operates. In Chechnya, it helped transform a reasonably conventional nationalist struggle into an outpost of the jihad. In the Balkans, it played a key role in replacing a traditionally moderate Islam with a form of Mitteleuropean Wahhabism. Pick a Muwafaq branch office almost anywhere on the planet and you get an interesting glimpse of the typical Saudi charity worker. The former head of its mission in Zagreb, Croatia, for example, is a guy called Ayadi Chafiq bin Muhammad. Well, he’s called that most of the time. But he has at least four aliases and residences in at least three nations (Germany, Austria and Belgium). He was named as a bin Laden financier by the U.S. government and disappeared from the United Kingdom shortly after 9/11.

So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors – in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment.

This is an all-out assault on the First Amendment guarantees of Freedom of Expression that affects every American. This is the story on how a rich, Saudi Sheik “disappears” a book by American authors that exposes his business and charity ties to the financing of terrorism. And it turns out that this is not the first time this kind of censorship has occurred! Here are two articles that detail a battle being fought by author Rachel Ehrenfeld on the libel suit against her 2003 book, Funding Evil: the Boston Globe article ‘Libel tourism’ and the war on terror, and the Front Page article, Libel Wars.

Michelle Malkin and Bryan at Hot Air have more.

So, where do we go from here? Kurtz has this advice:

But right now I think there is time pressure on the question of the status of Alms for Jihad at various libraries. Within a week it could be too late to save the remaining copies of the book. We need a publicly mounted list of all American libraries containing Alms for Jihad. We need to make public inquiries as to whether the book is being removed or not. We need to know if the books, once removed, are being destroyed. We need to know exactly what is in the letter that Cambridge University Press has sent to American libraries. Does it call for destruction of the book, or merely removal (if destruction, then a campaign to return the books to the shelves will fail). If American libraries have a clear legal right not to comply with the Cambridge letter, and if they can be shown that they are not under any serious threat, they need to be told as much, and quickly.

I checked, and the University of Georgia has a copy; although, it is checked-out until 01/30/2008 (hmmmm…that’s a long time).

Stay tuned.

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