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Monday, October 20, 2008

Defeating Libel Terrorism

By Deborah Weiss | Monday, October 20, 2008

There are many forms of terrorism, and violence is just one of them. The non-violent, incremental strategies used to achieve the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal to “sabotage the west from within” are more insidious and more likely to be successful than violence. Though non-violent radicalism takes many forms, one of the most dangerous forms is the effort to stifle free speech through the use of foreign defamation law suits.

A main case in point is that of Rachel Ehrenfeld. She is an Israeli-American counter-terrorism expert, and is internationally recognized. In 2003, she authored the book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop it. In it, she asserted that Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker and billionaire helped finance Al Qaeda. To support her claim, she cited official government documents from France, Britain, and the United States.

Rachel’s book was written, published, and distributed in America, and was targeting an American audience. However, through the Internet, approximately 23 books were sold in the United Kingdom. This was sufficient for British courts to acknowledge jurisdiction when Mahfouz decided to sue Rachel for defamation in the British courts.

Rachel refused to travel to the U.K. for her court appearance. She was consequently issued a default judgment. The court ordered her to pay $225,000 and to apologize to Mahfouz. Rachel sought a declaratory judgment in Manhattan’s federal court, requesting that the U.K. judgment be declared unenforceable. However, the case was dismissed due to the court’s lack of jurisdiction over Mahfouz.

Mahfouz claimed he was innocent of the charges that Rachel levied against him. Yet, he chose not to sue her in the U.S. where jurisdiction would have made more sense. This is because British and American defamation laws differ starkly. In America, free speech is protected under the first amendment of the U.S. constitution. The laws in America are pro-free speech, pro-defendant, and truth is a complete defense. A public figure cannot win a libel law suit unless he meets his burden of proof to show that the statement made was false and the author made it with “actual malice” or with “reckless disregard of the truth.” Plaintiffs in America are often deposed under oath, and under discovery rules, Mahfouz could additionally have been required to make his finances open to public scrutiny. None of these rules apply in Britain.

In the U.K., defamation laws are very pro-plaintiff, tilting in favor of protecting one’s reputation to the degree that it often amounts to censorship. There, it constitutes defamation to publish “a statement that would make an ordinary person modify his opinion of a person as a result of hearing or reading the statement.” The plaintiff does not have the burden of proof. Instead, the statement is presumed to be false, and the burden of proof is on the defendant to show otherwise. Defenses to defamation claims in the U.K. include the argument that you were not really the author; you did not know the statement would be published; you did not know the statement was defamatory; or the person about whom the statement was made had such a poor reputation that a negative publication would not change the average person’s opinion of him.

Due to these differences in law, there has been a substantial rise in the phenomenon known as “libel tourism,” where terrorism financiers and front groups forum-shop around the globe to sue in the legal system most favorable to them. With the advent of book sales through the internet, courts that would otherwise have no jurisdiction can hear cases where the subject books were bought in their country.

Law suits and threats of law suits by Mahfouz and others like him, have had a chilling effect on free speech throughout the west. Mahfouz has already sued or threatened to sue forty authors, including twenty Americans. In so doing, he has collected substantial damages, and precluded the sale and distribution of important information on terror-financing. For example, in 2006, after Mahfouz filed a libel claim, Cambridge University Press announced that it would halt the sale of all unsold copies of its book titled Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, written by Robert O. Collins, a former professor of history from the University of California, and J. Millard Burr, a former State Department employee.

Subsequently, in 2007, Andy McCarthy wrote a book titled Willful Blindness. McCarthy was the lead federal prosecutor of Abdul Rachman (otherwise known as “the blind Sheik”), who was responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. A book distributor operating in Canada and Britain wrote a letter to Roger Kimball, McCarthy’s publisher-to-be, inquiring if the book contained any anti-Saudi or anti-terrorist content. He feared he would offend Saudis living in the U.K. and subject himself to possible lawsuits.

As a practical matter, even those who want to stand on principle rarely have the deep pockets required to defend themselves in court. The Saudis, on the other hand, have seemingly endless amounts of money with which to fund their litigation efforts.

The result of this libel terrorism is that books deemed offensive by terrorist financiers, terrorist front groups, and terrorist sympathizers, don’t get published even if true. Their money laundering, training of Wahabbi imams around the globe, distribution of hate-filled literature, and radical indoctrination of madrassa students must all go unmentioned. Even when plaintiffs don’t have a meritorious case, they know that the threat of bleeding a defendant dry can be sufficient to achieve their goal of stifling free speech. And, the threat of a law suit need not be spoken to have a chilling effect. That defamation suits initiated by radicals are increasing throughout the West is enough to make everyone in the industry take notice. Libel terrorism has indeed been successful.

The flood of libel lawsuits in foreign courts demonstrates that radical Muslims and terrorist financiers are trying to shut people up. After all, if Americans cannot talk about how terrorism operates and is funded, they cannot properly address the problem. It is therefore crucial to defeat libel terrorism, not only in order to preserve America’s free speech rights, but to maintain her national security.

In response to these events, the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate unanimously passed the “the Libel Terrorism Reform Act” earlier this year. Also known as “Rachel’s Law,” this bill gives New York courts jurisdiction over foreigners who win defamation judgments against New Yorkers. It allows the defendant to seek a declaration that the judgment is unenforceable if the country in which it was issued does not provide the same free speech protections as the first amendment. The bill was signed into law by Governor Paterson in May, 2008, and is a victory for the publishing capital of the world.

Now, Congress wants to make protection against libel terrorism national, and toughen the consequences even further. “The Free Speech Protection Act of 2008” was introduced in the House of Representatives by New York Congressman Peter King. In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter and cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer. This bill, if passed, will provide the same remedies as the New York State bill. Additionally, it will allow authors and publishers to counter-sue for treble damages in cases where the plaintiff filed a defamation complaint with the intent to intimidate defendants from exercising their first amendment rights. The bill is pending in both the House and Senate judiciary committees.

Unfortunately, this bill will die in committee unless Congress goes back into session before the year’s end. However, word is that after January 1, 2009 the committees will bring these bills up again, giving Congress a second chance to send them to the floor for a vote. If Congressmen and Senators work together in a bipartisan fashion, they can win this battle to preserve one of America’s bedrock freedoms and to defeat non-violent radicals in their abusive litigation tactics. In order to win the global war on terror, it is critical that authors are free to disseminate truthful information on terrorism-related issues to intelligence and counterterrorism professionals, as well as to the public.

Let’s hope that when the New Year commences, America’s legislators will not let this important opportunity slip by.

Deborah Weiss is an attorney and regular contributor to

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Jihad for Love

By Deborah Weiss | Thursday, September 18, 2008

During his speech at Columbia University almost one year ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad professed, “[w]e have no homosexuals in Iran.” Now, a film entitled “A Jihad for Love” demonstrates why it is difficult to locate gays in the Muslim world.

Filmed over a period of five and a half years, filmmaker-director Parvez Sharma, a gay Muslim, conducted interviews with other gays and lesbians in twelve countries and nine different languages. The film premiered in Toronto in 2007 and was only recently released in the United States. It was banned at the Singapore International Film Festival due to the “sensitive nature” of discussing the compatibility of Islam and homosexuality.

The film attempts to reclaim the concept of jihad to mean “inner struggle,” rather than the often-used concept of “holy war.” Yet, one could not help but notice that the reaction to homosexuals by the surrounding Muslim community was overtly hostile, violent and oppressive. The inner struggle seemed to be directly brought on by the inner-outer conflict of how to reconcile one’s own sexual proclivities with the inevitable disapproval, chastisement, and violent penalties that would be imposed by Islamic fundamentalist governments, the Muslim religious community, and sometimes even family members.

For example, Muhsin, a gay imam in Johannesburg, South Africa, decided to “come out” by making the rounds with radio appearances. His goal was to speak out in an attempt to reach other gay Muslims and prevent them from either committing suicide or leaving Islam. But the audience would have none of it. Though homosexuality is not illegal in South Africa, callers from the conservative Muslim community believe it should be. “He should be thrown off a mountain or burned.” “They should cut off his arse.” “They should definitely bring back the death penalty for this guy…He’s bringing down the name of Islam.”

These were just some of the comments called in by English speaking citizens. Muhsin’s children, who see him less often since his divorce, laughed and giggled when he asked them what they thought should happen to him because he’s gay. “[Y]ou should be stoned!” shouted his daughter. “No, he should be thrown off a mountain,” her brother argued. All this, despite the fact that they clearly loved him.

“Seriously,” Muhsin asked, “if someone tried to hurt you, I would put my life on the line because I love you (paraphrasing)….You wouldn’t do the same for me?.... If someone wanted to kill me, what would you do?” The children sobered up and the daughter replied, “I would pray that my Dad won’t feel, and that he would die with the first stone.” Muhsin continued, “I know the mentality of the Muslim community, and I was prepared to die.”

Muhsin believes that the answer to reconciling homosexuality with Islam does not lie in the Koran, but in ijtihad-- the independent interpretation of Islamic laws, used by legal scholars. Unfortunately, most scholars believe that “the gates of itjihad closed in the tenth century.” Therefore, Islamic rulings have generally not been updated since that time. Muhsin explained that in their religious education, most Muslims are taught to fear Allah more than they are taught about God’s love. He believes this needs to be changed.

In Iran, the government discovered that Amir was a homosexual. There, homosexuality is a crime, often punishable by death. The movie did not reveal that most homosexuals in Iran are hung in the public square, sometimes as young as age sixteen. Instead, it showed photographs of Amir’s back, after he received one hundred bloody lashes. It is likely that he was allowed to live because his father was a martyr. Eventually, Amir and three of his friends escaped to Turkey, which does not recognize Iranian refugees. They applied to the UN Commissioner for Central Refugees for refugee status. Their requests were granted and they relocated to Canada. Had their applications been denied, they would have been returned to Iran.

Arsham was among Amir’s friends who applied for refugee status. He had founded “The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization” or “PGLO” for short, an organization not mentioned in the film. Two of Amir’s friends as well as other interviewees were filmed with blotted out faces due to fear of repercussions to themselves or their families.

Some of the interviewees visited imams or Islamic scholars to find out whether their homosexuality was compatible with their faith. All the scholars emphatically declared that it was not. One imam explained that homosexuals are not entitled to Muslim burials. He asserted that according to all Islamic scholars, the sin of homosexuality is punishable by death.

The only differing views pertain to how one should be killed. In India, punishment for the crime of homosexuality is not enforced. There, one scholar encouraged Qasim, who came seeking answers, to pray to Allah for forgiveness. When Qasim inquired what would happen if he continued his homosexual activity after saying his prayers, the scholar demanded that Qasim see a psychologist to cure his problem.

Almost all of the gays and lesbians in the film had prayed for Allah to remove their homosexuality. For most, this prayer went unanswered. Many came to terms with their sexuality but still remained believers in Islam. Some are trying to reform their religion. Some merely escaped to freer countries. Others stayed behind drenched in guilt and shame.

Maryam and her girlfriend researched the status of lesbianism within Islam. They discovered that it is forbidden by all scholars, but is only punishable by scolding because it doesn’t involve penetration. Maryam sighed, wishing the punishment were greater -- perhaps a severe lashing, in order to relieve her of her guilt. Maryam resides in Morrocco, a more liberal Muslim country, but her girlfriend lives in Egypt where homosexuality, including lesbianism, is punished by the government. They commute to see each other in secrecy, both desiring to live together as a couple, but simultaneously fearing the consequences. Maryam fails to understand why she cannot live with both her girlfriend and Allah at the same time. Nevertheless, she is happy to cover herself in the Islamic hijab because it makes her feel less attractive to men and she finds that freeing.

Others came forward in the film as well. One lesbian had been the victim of female genital mutilation as a child, which closed her genitals up until she was age twenty-five. Another, a cross-dresser, went on the annual religious hajj to Mecca. When he returned, he “felt funny” about his sexual behavior knowing he still attended a mosque that forbids it. He discontinued his cross-dressing and his homosexual activities.

Across the globe, homosexuality is taboo in many religions and cultures. However, the prohibition is strongest within the Islamic culture. Not only must gay and lesbian Muslims endure the name-calling that occurs across the board, but if they live in Islamic theocracies, their conduct constitutes a crime punishable by a range of violent acts from bloody lashings, to stoning, beheading or hanging. Where the state does not impose such penalties, often the Muslim community opines that it should, and sometimes even takes matters into its own hands.

“A Jihad for Love” covers the reactions to homosexuality throughout an array of Muslim countries, customs and communities. All the interviewees came forward under the threat of death. The film would have been more effective had it provided a more complete picture of the extent of violent penalties for the crime of homosexuality. Nevertheless, it is the only known full length documentary covering the subject of homosexuality and Islam. The West, and those on the left in particular, need to be confronted with the fact that radical Islamic ideologies are in direct conflict with all the values they claim to hold dear.

Parvez Sharma should be commended for coming out of the closet -- for revealing the truth regarding how much of the Muslim world denies homosexuals their basic human rights and dignity.

Deborah Weiss is an attorney and regular contributor to


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Obama campaign officially supports anti semitism on its listserv

Here is the response from the Obama campaign to my complaints regarding anti semitic activity on its listserv

We appreciate your involvement on My.BarackObama. However, we have received complaints concerning your listserv messages. This is a reminder to keep the dialogue between group members respectful. As our movement for change grows, it's important that we continue to maintain a welcoming community where all people can engage in positive discourse. Please join us in moving beyond the divisive politics of the past. Thank you so much for your understanding and cooperation.

Emily Obama for America

Anti Semitism has now been endorsed by the Obama campaign

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