Saturday, December 29, 2007

Islam vs. Free Speech

by Jed Babbin

Under assault by Muslims and multiculturalists, free speech and freedom
of the press are dead in Britain. The same sorts of people who killed
them in Britain are killing them in Canada. They and their allies are
using the British and Canadian courts and tribunals to bury our First
Amendment rights in America.

Muslims -- individually and in pressure groups -- are using British
libel laws and Canadian "human rights" laws to limit what is said about
Islam, terrorists and the people in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are
funding groups such as al-Queda. The cases of Rachel Ehrenfeld and Mark
Steyn prove the point.

Dr. Ehrenfeld is a scholar and author of the book, "Funding Evil: How
Terrorism is Financed, and How to Stop it." In that book, Khalid Salim
bin Mahfouz -- a Saudi who is former head of the Saudi National
Commercial Bank -- and some of his family are described as having funded
terrorism directly and indirectly.

Ehrenfeld is American, her book was written and published in America and
she has no business or other ties to Britain. Under American law, the
Brit courts would have no jurisdiction over her. But about two-dozen
copies of her book were sold there through the internet. Bin Mahfouz
sued her for libel in the Brit courts where the burden of proof is the
opposite of what it is in US courts: the author has to prove that what
is written is true, rather than the supposedly defamed person proving it
is false.

Think about that for a moment. Under the US Constitution political
writing -- free speech -- is almost unlimited. To gain a libel judgment
a politician -- or someone suspected of terrorist ties -- would have to
prove that the story or book was false. If that person were a public
figure such as Mahfouz, in order to get a libel judgment he'd not only
have to prove that what was written was false, he'd also have to prove
it was published maliciously.

Those American laws and standards of proof protect political speech. The
First Amendment is intended to protect political speech that people find
objectionable. In the landmark 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the
Supreme Court overturned an Ohio statute which would have outlawed hate
speech by the Ku Klux Klan. That's why Mahfouz sued in Britain, not here.

Ehrenfeld refused to fight the case, saying the Brit courts have no
jurisdiction over her. Mahfouz got a default judgment against her for
₤10,000 (for himself, and in equal amounts for his sons). The judgment
also requires that there be no further "defamatory" statements published
in England and Wales.

In a letter published in the Spectator on November 21, bin Mahfouz's
lawyers gloated over their victory against Ehrenfeld: "Rather than check
her facts, defend her statements in open court, or acknowledge her
mistakes, Ehrenfeld hides behind a claim to free speech. Thank goodness,
the legal lights remain on in Britain to expose such harmful journalism."

"Harmful journalism" is what tyrants and despots call free speech,
especially political speech that condemns their affronts to freedom. The
"legal lights" Mahfouz's lawyers see is the bonfire they made of the
Magna Carta. Thanks to Mahfouz and his ilk, the light of free speech is
extinguished in Britain. Consider the fate of the book, "Alms for Jihad."

In 2006 Cambridge University press published "Alms for Jihad." It's a
highly detailed and apparently well-researched book that documents Saudi
funding of terrorist groups (as well as other funding and the network of
Islamic "charities" that contribute to terrorism). "Alms for Jihad" --
like Ehrenfeld's book -- documents bin Mahfouz's funding ties to
terrorism, including to Usama bin Laden. But "Alms"-- in settlement of a
libel suit by bin Mahfouz in the Brit courts -- was withdrawn from
stores and libraries and unsold copies destroyed. The Saudi book burners

Mahfouz's case against Ehrenfeld has already done enormous harm in the
US. Ehrenfeld told me she's unable to get book publishers to contract
for another book. She said all of the major US publishing houses have
turned down a book on the Muslim Brotherhood -- thought to have
substantial terrorist ties -- and the Saudis' involvement in funding it.

If what Ehrenfeld writes about the Brotherhood offends Mahfouz or
someone else whose ties to terrorism ought to be exposed, sales could be
banned not only in Britain but in the entire European Union and the
publisher -- and the author -- made liable for damages. Mahfouz -- using
British courts that have no jurisdiction over American authors -- has
apparently precluded Ehrenfeld from writing another book. Steyn's case
is another instance of Muslims trying to silence "harmful journalism."

Mark Steyn's superb book, "America Alone", makes two important points:
first, that the Muslim baby boom around the world will likely result in
Christian nations becoming Muslim by weight of demographics; and second
that Islam is a political system, not just a religion:

So it's not merely that there's a global jihad lurking within this
religion, but that the religion itself is a political project and, in
fact, an imperial project in a way that modern Christianity, Judaism,
Hinduism and Buddhism are not. Furthermore, this particular religion is
historically a somewhat bloodthirsty faith in which whatever's your bag
violence-wise can almost certainly be justified.

Steyn's stance -- written by him and paralleled by other writers in the
Canadian magazine, "Macleans" -- is the subject of a complaint to the
Canadian Human Rights Commission brought by three Muslim law students in
Canada, with the apparent support of the Canadian Islamic Conference.
That group is similar to the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a multiculti kangaroo court. The
complaint against Macleans will be adjudicated next year, and findings
entered against the magazine. (Steyn told me that the CHRC has granted
100% of the petitions brought to it so far.) What then?

Fines and other sanctions will be entered against Macleans along with
probable injunctions against further "harmful journalism" that offends
Muslims. A case may be brought against Steyn himself later. Which means
that he could be subjected to fines or other penalties in Canada for
exercising his First Amendment rights in the US. And -- because American
publishers look to Canada for about 10% of their sales -- Steyn may,
like Ehrenfeld, find publishers unwilling to publish his work.

What has happened to Ehrenfeld and may happen to Steyn is in
contravention of their First Amendment rights. No American court would
or could do that. No foreign court or commission should be able to. US
courts, and each of us who believes in free speech, must stand with both
authors. US courts should make it clear that foreign libel judgments or
"human rights" decisions that conflict with our First Amendment cannot
be enforced.

Each and every presidential candidate should speak -- loudly and clearly
-- against this encroachment of foreign law on the First Amendment.
Anyone who doesn't stand forthrightly against these foreign
infringements on Americans' Constitutional rights should receive neither
our confidence nor our votes.

What Muslims such as Mahfouz and those complaining against Steyn are
doing to destroy free speech overseas has been commenced here by groups
such as CAIR. A few weeks ago, CAIR announced its media guide, which is
purportedly corrects "misperceptions" about Islam and "…educate(s) the
media and disabuse(s) journalists of misinformation." But the other
aspect -- which I and others suspect -- is that it's not so much a guide
as a set of rules against "harmful journalism." And those who write
about terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Islam will be accused of intolerance
and racism should they violate them.

We don't yet know what the CAIR guide says. I requested a copy of it
from CAIR by e-mail, as they specified. I have neither received a copy
nor received any response. I suspect CAIR wants to hide it from people
who would scrutinize it. Having to operate under our Constitution, they
will take a more indirect path than Mahfouz and the Canadian law
students to preclude what they believe is "harmful journalism."

Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events. He served as a deputy
undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's
administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our
Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why
China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the
Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery,
2004). E-mail him at

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