'Lawfare' gains ground
U.N. resolution on 'defaming' a case in point
by Brooke M. Goldstein and Aaron Eitan Meyer
May 19, 2009
The United Nations recently passed resolutions that would make "defaming" Islam a globally criminal act. The United Kingdom first refused entry to Geert Wilders, a sitting European Parliament member and Islamist critic, and now has issued a list banning 16 other individuals, which includes some banned solely for their exercise of free speech.
"Faith Fighter," an online video game featuring various religious figures, attracted considerable attention and controversy, but was removed after the Organization of the Islamic Conference threatened the game's producers. Valentina Colombo, an Italian professor, wrote about an Islamist who said liberal Muslims could be killed as apostates; he has now sued her for damaging his credibility as a "moderate."
And the United States is not immune. As the presidential election race was under way, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, better known as CAIR, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Committee claiming that "Obsession," a candidate-neutral documentary on terrorism, somehow constituted improper election activity.
More recently still, CAIR has demanded that Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner step down, for the "crime" of co-hosting a conference on free speech at which Mr.Wilders spoke. Lawsuits charging "defamation" continue to plague people who speak out against radical Islam and terrorism, including ongoing cases against Iranian-American researcher Hassan Daioleslam, Americans Against Hate founder Joseph Kaufman, and Hawaii Free Press Editor Andrew Walden. By and large, these events, and others like them, have not made the front page of any major newspaper, or been featured on broadcast television, if mentioned at all.
Yet, along with a number of individual lawsuits aimed at silencing critics of radical Islam, terrorism, and terrorist funding, freedom of speech is under siege, not only in the United States, but throughout the West - and the ideology behind this dangerous threat is radical Islam. And while steps have been taken to counteract some forms of this legal warfare, or "lawfare," there is a distinct need for a counteroffensive.
Perhaps, turning radical Islam's tactics against it is the solution. If Europeans can be prosecuted by Islamists using the European Union's legal system, should it then not follow that radical Imams in Muslim countries can be cited by European citizens and extradition be requested by them to European courts for their anti-Semitic and anti-Christian rhetoric? Whatever the particular solution may be, some attempt must be made, and soon.
Recognizing the severity of the threat, and the necessity of responding to it, the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum, in conjunction with the Federalist Society, the Center for National Security Law and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, is hosting a conference titled "Libel Lawfare: Silencing Criticism of Radical Islam," on Tuesday, in Washington. The conference, featuring experts in the field as well as victims of lawfare, will fully address this dangerously underreported trend. The conference panelists represent diverse views, about the nature and scope of the problem, as well as the solution. There will be no conference conclusion - that is not its purpose. The conference will achieve its purpose simply by engaging in precisely the type of speech that Islamists want to suppress so desperately: open discussion on this critical issue of public concern, without fear of threats or reprisal.
Brooke Goldstein is a lawyer, an award-winning filmmaker and the director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum. Aaron Eitan Meyer is assistant director at the Legal Project and legal correspondent of the Terror Finance Blog.
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