This “Legal Jihad” Must Be Stopped!
Imagine an America where no journalist, author, or speaker dared to write or speak out about militant Islam and Islamic terrorism. Imagine an America where books like Brigitte Gabriel’s Because They Hate were never published out of fear by the publishing company that they could be bankrupted by “libel” lawsuits.
Sounds impossible in America, right? After all, this is the world’s beacon light of free speech and free press, right?
Yes, but those rights are under very serious assault from another tentacle of Jihad – “Legal Jihad.”
One of the tactics being employed by Islamists to intimidate critics and muzzle investigative reporting of Islamic militancy and terrorism is the use of lawsuits alleging defamation of character and slander. A particularly egregious example of this has ensnared Rachel Ehrenfeld, noted author on terrorism and related issues, and a member of the Advisory Board of American Congress for Truth, ACT! for America’s sister organization.
Ehrenfeld was sued in a British court by Saudi billionaire Khalid Salim bin Mahfouz for detailing in her book how Bin Mahfouz, and some of his family, are allegedly tied to funding terrorist organizations. She lost the suit by default and was ordered to pay Bin Mahfouz over $225,000 in damages.
Bin Mahfouz has used the British legal system to obtain more than three dozen such judgments affecting the U.S. media. His tactics have been so successful that several major American media companies and book publishing companies have chosen to pull books and issue apologies and retractions, rather than face the economic consequences of losing to him in British courts.
Such legal assaults, if allowed to succeed, have chilling and far-reaching implications for our cherished freedoms of speech and the press so enormous that they threaten the very foundation of American liberty.
It is no accident that our Founding Fathers placed freedom of speech and the press in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights. They understood that without such freedoms, there cannot be a free people.
Ehrenfeld rightly sought a court order and legal protection of her constitutional rights in the New York court system. Shockingly, a New York Court of Appeals has ruled that it cannot protect her from this lawsuit. The court ruled that it does not have jurisdiction to protect Americans – on U.S. soil – from a foreign defamation verdict!!
This court ruling has stunned many in the legal, media and publishing community. The British court system’s legal standard for libel is much lower than that in the United States, which explains why litigants like Bin Mahfouz file lawsuits in Great Britain. They recognize they are unlikely to succeed with such lawsuits in America, so they use foreign courts in an attempt to intimidate and muzzle American authors and journalists.
This is nothing more than “Legal Jihad” – and it must be stopped.
Fortunately, a bi-partisan effort is now under way in New York to pass legislation designed to protect journalists, authors and publishers from lawsuits filed outside the U.S. by foreign nationals seeking to muzzle the First Amendment rights of American citizens, particularly those reporting on terrorism and its financiers.
This Sunday, January 13th, at 10:30 a.m., on the steps of the New York Public Library, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, a bi-partisan news conference will be held by New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman, where they will announce the introduction of such legislation. The two lawmakers, Ehrenfeld, and members of the bar, will warn that without this legislation, not only are authors and journalists threatened, the contents of the New York Public Library could be subject to assault by foreign nationals seeking to silence public debate in America. They are to be applauded and supported for this effort.
If you live in the New York area, you are invited to attend this news conference. Next week, once we have specific details regarding the legislation, we will launch a full-scale educational and lobbying effort to ensure its passage – so please watch for our alerts in your email boxes.
Ladies and gentlemen, if Islamists are allowed to “court shop” around the world, seeking friendly judges who will issue court rulings and monetary judgments against anyone in America who dares to write or speak out against the assault of militant Islam, not only will our ability to resist this threat be dramatically imperiled. This will be a stake in the heart of American free speech and press rights.
We cannot allow this to happen.