It has become popular for those with competing political agendas to allege threats to free speech, whether real or imagined. Yet, there is a very real threat to free speech that has received little attention in the public sphere. It's called libel tourism and it has become a major component in the ideological arm of the war on terrorism.
"Yet, there is a very real threat to free speech that has received little attention in the public sphere."
You can say that again!
Any idea what it is?
(Hint: Got bananas?)
At question is the publication of books and other writings that seek to shed light on the financing of Islamic terrorism. Increasingly, American authors who dare enter this territory are finding themselves at risk of being sued for libel in the much more plaintiff-friendly British court system in what amounts to an attempt to censor their work on an international level.
The latest case of libel tourism to rear its ugly head involves the book "Alms for Jihad", which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2006. Co-written by former State Department analyst and USAID relief coordinator for Sudan J. Millard Burr and UC Santa Barbara professor emeritus of history Robert O. Collins, "Alms for Jihad" delves into the tangled web of international terrorist financing and, chiefly, the misuse of Muslim charities for such purposes.
This is old news for readers of my blog, but I leave it in here just to publicize the situation some.
Billionaire strikes back
Among those the book fingers for involvement is Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, the former chairman of Saudi Arabia's largest bank, National Commercial Bank. Bin Mahfouz has come under similar scrutiny on previous occasions, including being named a defendant in a lawsuit filed by family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He even has a section of his Web site devoted to trying to refute such charges.
"He even has a section of his Web site devoted to trying to refute such charges."
Is there a section of his website that isn't devoted to trying to refute such charges?
Saudi Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, Financier of Holy Terror and Oppressor of Western Liberties... guaranteed a place in history next to Sheikh Osama bin Laden.
Step up and claim your title, Sheikh bin Mahfouz! Who knows? Allah might be extra pleased with you, and give you a few extra virgins when you get to paradise!
With this in mind, Cambridge University Press lawyers looked over the manuscript for "Alms for Jihad" carefully before giving it the go-ahead. According to Collins, the passages involving bin Mahfouz are, in fact, quite "trivial" compared to the wealth of information contained in the book on how such funds are used to finance conflicts around the globe.
And then Cambridge chickened out... but, here's the story in case you missed it.
Yet, it is bin Mahfouz's inclusion in "Alms for Jihad" that has proven to be the most problematic, for he soon threatened Cambridge University Press with a libel lawsuit. Before the suit could commence, Cambridge University Press capitulated and announced in July that not only was it taking the unprecedented step of pulping all unsold copies of "Alms for Jihad," but it was asking libraries all over the world to remove the book from their shelves. Cambridge University Press issued a formal apology to bin Mahfouz and posted a public apology at its Web site. It also agreed to pay his legal costs and unspecified damages, which, according to bin Mahfouz, are to be donated to UNICEF.
Authors Burr and Collins, however, did not take part in the apology, nor were they a party to the settlement, and they continue to stand by their scholarship. As Collins put it, "I'm not going to recant on something just from the threat of a billionaire Saudi sheik ... I think I'm a damn good historian." The authors were aware that Cambridge University Press' decision was based not so much on a lack of confidence in the book as on a fear of incurring costly legal expenses and getting involved in a lengthy trial. The British court system is known as a welcoming environment for "libel tourists" such as bin Mahfouz. The Weekly Standard elaborates:Bin Mahfouz has a habit of using the English tort regime to squelch any unwanted discussion of his record. In America, the burden of proof in a libel suit lies with the plaintiff. In Britain, it lies with the defendant, which can make it terribly difficult and expensive to ward off a defamation charge, even if the balance of evidence supports the defendant.
Bin Mahfouz has indeed availed himself of the British court system on many occasions, having either sued or threatened suit against Americans and others at least 36 times since 2002, according to Rachel Ehrenfeld, author and director of the American Center for Democracy.
And, Pamela over at Atlas Shrugs has called Dr. Ehrenfeld a giant.
But, there's another giant that we're missing (though she considers herself just a citizen).
And, there's another gorilla in the room!
When a Saudi Sheikh tries to shut you up,
It can be a real drag;
But when your own government shuts you up,
Then it's called a gag!
Riddle me this!
Some follow the case
Of terrorism and libel,
But who knows the story
Of treason and Sibel?
Please go to Libel Tourism: Where Terrorism and Censorship Meet to read the rest of Cinnamon Stillwell's excellent story.
For my part, I will only quote one more excerpt from it, specifically, another heading:
"Price of book skyrockets"
I told you so!
Now, I make another prediction, and you can take this one to Vegas, and then to the bank:
The Sibel Edmonds case sheds light on an awful mess;
Therein lies a story truly to be had!
It, for our audience, we shall address,
To the satisfaction of the good, and the horror of the bad!
(Hat tip to my email tipsters!)