Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Twenty-first Century Book-Burning

(Another of my long reads. Settle in! What you're going to read here affects you and your posterity)

In his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury published a story about a dystopian society in which all books are burned. According to one review at Amazon.com,
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."

Another review states the following:
The disturbing thing about the book is that, unlike many other books that deal with the distant future, "Fahrenheit 451" (written in 1953) hasn't been proved wrong simply by time itself. Not at all. Actually, what is shocking to realize is that we've come quite close to the society Bradbury writes about. Perhaps books haven't been banned yet, but it is indeed the entertainment industry that controls people's minds, the political correctness has reached ridiculous levels...
Coincidentally, early last spring I chose Fahrenheit 451 as one of the readings for my World Literature class for the 2007-2008 school term. At the time, I didn't realize just how important the reading of Bradbury's classic was going to be.

Now comes the story about the recall and destruction of Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, a book published just last year and now becoming scarce at the behest of Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz. From this source:
I’ve gotten numerous reports from readers who have attempted to purchase Alms for Jihad from Books a Million and elsewhere, only to have the purchase denied because that title is currently unavailable. That’s because, as Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and I discussed earlier this week, Khalid bin Mafouz has successfully bullied the Cambridge University Press into pulping the book. Cambridge has even sent out notices to have it removed from some libraries...
According to the above source, Alms for Jihad is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain (at any price, according to Cassandra, who phoned me last night), even via digital download. At the moment, the hard copy of Alms of Jihad is unavailable at Amazon.com, although the site has a link for digital download. I don't know if that link still works.

Mark Steyn has written a commentary about the disappearance of Alms for Jihad. His commentary is reproduced below in its entirety (emphases mine):
How will we lose the war against "radical Islam"?

Well, it won't be in a tank battle. Or in the Sunni Triangle or the caves of Bora Bora. It won't be because terrorists fly three jets into the Oval Office, Buckingham Palace and the Basilica of St Peter's on the same Tuesday morning.

The war will be lost incrementally because we are unable to reverse the ongoing radicalization of Muslim populations in South Asia, Indonesia, the Balkans, Western Europe and, yes, North America. And
who's behind that radicalization? Who funds the mosques and Islamic centers that in the past 30 years have set up shop on just about every Main Street around the planet?

For the answer, let us turn to
a fascinating book called "Alms for Jihad: Charity And Terrorism in the Islamic World," by J. Millard Burr, a former USAID relief coordinator, and the scholar Robert O Collins. Can't find it in your local Barnes & Noble? Never mind, let's go to Amazon. Everything's available there. And sure enough, you'll come through to the "Alms for Jihad" page and find a smattering of approving reviews from respectably torpid publications: "The most comprehensive look at the web of Islamic charities that have financed conflicts all around the world," according to Canada's Globe And Mail, which is like the New York Times but without the jokes.

Unfortunately, if you then try to buy "Alms for Jihad," you discover that the book is "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." Hang on, it was only published last year. At Amazon, items are either shipped within 24 hours or, if a little more specialized, within four to six weeks, but not many books from 2006 are entirely unavailable with no restock in sight.

Well, let us cross the ocean, thousands of miles from the Amazon warehouse, to the High Court in London. Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of "Alms for Jihad" and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves.
This highly unusual action was accompanied by a letter to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, in care of his English lawyers, explaining their reasons:

"Throughout the book there are serious and defamatory allegations about yourself and your family, alleging support for terrorism through your businesses, family and charities, and directly.

"As a result of what we now know, we accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your family, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false."

Who is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz? Well, he's a very wealthy and influential Saudi. Big deal, you say. Is there any other kind? Yes, but even by the standards of very wealthy and influential Saudis, this guy is plugged in: He was the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government. He has a swanky pad in London and an Irish passport and multiple U.S. business connections, including to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

I'm not saying the 9/11 Commission is a Saudi shell operation, merely making the observation that, whenever you come across a big-shot Saudi, it's considerably less than six degrees of separation between him and the most respectable pillars of the American establishment.

As to whether allegations about support for terrorism by the sheikh and his "family, businesses and charities" are "entirely and manifestly false," the Cambridge University Press is going way further than the United States or most foreign governments would. Of his bank's funding of terrorism, Sheikh Mahfouz's lawyer has said: "Like upper management at any other major banking institution, Khalid Bin Mahfouz was not, of course, aware of every wire transfer moving through the bank. Had he known of any transfers that were going to fund al-Qaida or terrorism, he would not have permitted them." Sounds reasonable enough. Except that in this instance the Mahfouz bank was wiring money to the principal Mahfouz charity, the Muwafaq (or "Blessed Relief") Foundation, which in turn transferred them to Osama bin Laden.

In October 2001, the Treasury Department named Muwafaq as "an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen" and its chairman as a "specially designated global terrorist." As the Treasury concluded, "Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief."

Indeed, this "charity" seems to have no other purpose than to fund jihad. It seeds Islamism wherever it operates. In Chechnya, it helped transform a reasonably conventional nationalist struggle into an outpost of the jihad. In the Balkans, it played a key role in replacing a traditionally moderate Islam with a form of Mitteleuropean Wahhabism. Pick a Muwafaq branch office almost anywhere on the planet and you get an interesting glimpse of the typical Saudi charity worker. The former head of its mission in Zagreb, Croatia, for example, is a guy called Ayadi Chafiq bin Muhammad. Well, he's called that most of the time. But he has at least four aliases and residences in at least three nations (Germany, Austria and Belgium). He was named as a bin Laden financier by the U.S. government and disappeared from the United Kingdom shortly after 9/11.

So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors – in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment. He may be a wronged man, but his use of what the British call "libel chill" is designed not to vindicate his good name but to shut down the discussion, which is why Cambridge University Press made no serious attempt to mount a defense. He's one of the richest men on the planet, and they're an academic publisher with very small profit margins. But, even if you've got a bestseller, your pockets are unlikely to be deep enough: "House Of Saud, House Of Bush" did boffo biz with the anti-Bush crowd in America, but there's no British edition – because Sheikh Mahfouz had indicated he was prepared to spend what it takes to challenge it in court, and Random House decided it wasn't worth it.

We've gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can't open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world.

Suppose you've got a manuscript about the Saudis. Where are you going to shop it? Think Cambridge University Press will be publishing anything anytime soon?
The following is some additional information about Alms for Jihad. According to this source, the book:

is properly sourced, with hundreds of references. And Burr and Collins provided Cambridge University Press with all their materials on bin Mahfouz’ al Qaeda and Hamas financing, contrary to the false statements by both bin Mahfouz’ and Cambridge University Press attorneys.

Incredibly, the publishing arm of the world’s second oldest English speaking university (est. 1209), completely capitulated to bin Mahfouz, offering a comprehensive apology and substantial damages, according to an agreement read in the U.K. High Court on July 30, 2007. Cambridge University Press also promised to pulp the books, publish a detailed apology on its website and contribute to bin Mahfouz’ legal costs.

[T]hese authors’ statements and data were all previously well documented by the media and U.S. Congressional, Court, Treasury Department and other official statements.

These reports were further corroborated by French intelligence officials at the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), and published in the French daily, Le Monde. The DGSE reported that in 1998, they knew bin Mahfouz to be an architect of the banking scheme built to benefit Osama bin Laden; both U.S. and British intelligence services knew it, too.

In short, Cambridge University Press had nothing for which to apologize....

The pre-existing British intelligence knowledge of bin Mahfouz’ terrorist ties render the British High Court announcement all the more appalling an infringement of free speech...

Libraries here in the United States are not legally obligated to remove Alms for Jihad from their stacks. This morning, I noted that the Fairfax County Public Library system does not have the book; however, I do not know if the Fairfax system ever carried the book, but if so, voluntary censorship, resulting from fear of litigation, is afoot. You might want to check the library system in your area. Also, check your local bookstores. Cassandra told me yesterday that she couldn't find the book in her area. Is the book being pulled here in the United States?

After all, libel suits are costly affairs. Jeffrey Breinholt of the Counterterrorism Blog recently compiled the following list of legal actions attempted or taken against books unfavorable to Islam, Muslim organizations, and individual Muslims (emphasis mine):
Two news flashes on August 1, 2007. First, the lawyers representing the so-called Flying Imams in their lawsuit against US Airways announced that they were not going after the unnamed passengers whose concerns prompted the men to be pulled off the Arizona-bound flight (here). I suppose that is good to know, now that the long-term policy implications of their lawsuit are about to justify (literally) an act of Congress. Second, Cambridge University Press announced that it was going to destroy all copies of the 2006 book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, in response to a libel claim filed in England by Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker (here).
And let's not forget the recent dust-up between CAIR and the Young America's Foundation, when the group scheduled Robert Spencer to speak.

Continuing now with the piece from the Counterterrorism Blog:

Connected? Absolutely. Each story involves people who do not like how information flows these days. Each chose litigation as the means to try to get their way.


The Boston Herald reported on community concerns with the generous land deal between the city and the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), based on suspicions that ISB had connections to terrorists in the Middle East. ISB sues the Herald and various people who provided it information for libel. Islamic Soc. of Boston v. Boston Herald, Inc.,21 Mass.L.Rptr. 441, Not Reported in N.E.2d, 2006 WL 2423287, Mass.Super. 2006.

A sitting U.S. Congressman finds himself having to explain why he has chosen not to run for re-election, after public reports that he and his wife are having marital problems. To redress public concerns, he speaks by phone to a reporter from the Charlotte Observer, and describes how living in Washington no longer appeals to him, especially across the street from the headquarters of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after the events of 9/11 and the rumor he heard that CAIR is a fundraising front for Hizballah. CAIR sues the congressman for libel. CAIR v. Ballenger, 444 F.3d 659 (D.C. Cir. 2006)

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) posts a letter on its website calling for an investigation of Khadja Ghafur, the former superintendent of public charter schools, based on indications that public schools under his supervision are teaching religion and are associated with a controversial Pakistani organization. Ghafur sues the ADL for libel. Ghafur v. Bernstein, 131 Cal.App.4th 1230, 32 Cal.Rptr.3d 626, Cal.App. 1 Dist.,2005.

The New York Times and other news organizations report that Global Relief Foundation (GRF) is the target of an investigation based on suspicions of its terrorist fundraising. GRF sues the news organizations for libel. GRF v. NY Times, 390 F.3d 973 (7th Cir. 2003)

Radio personality Rick Dees makes some on-air statements that are offensive to Muslims. Durkhan Iqraa Jihad Mumin and two other people sue Dees and his station for libel. Mumin v. Dees, 266 Neb. 201, 663 N.W.2d 125 Neb. 2003.

America Online (AOL) permits chat rooms dealing with the the Qu’ran and the beliefs of Islam, and this generates posts that Muslims consider harassing and blasphemous. One Muslim visitor to the chat room user sues AOL for libel. Noah v. AOL, 261 F.Supp.2d 532 (E.D. Va. 2003)

The New York Post publishes an interview of Dr. Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, suggesting complicity of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in the assassination of her husband. Farrakhan sues the Post for libel. Farrakhan v. N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.,168 Misc.2d 536, 638 N.Y.S.2d 1002, N.Y.Sup.,1995.

The Wellesley College journal Counterpoint publishes an article about professor Tony Martin, who is believed to be associated with the Nation of Islam, suggesting that the decision to grant him tenure was based on threats of litigation. Martin sues Counterpoint for libel. Martin v. Roy, 54 Mass.App.Ct. 642, 767 N.E.2d 603, Mass.App.Ct., 2002.

The Boston Globe publishes an article about Yusuf Islam, the popular musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, describing how he had embraced Islam and moved to Iran. Islam sues the Globe for libel. Globe Communications Corp. v. R.C.S. Rizzoli Periodici, S.p.A., 729 F.Supp. 973 (S.D.N.Y.1990).

Newsweek publishes an article suggesting that Pakistani businessman Mahmoud Khan is associated with the CIA. Khan sues Newsweek for libel. Khan v. Newsweek, Inc, 160 A.D.2d 425, 554 N.Y.S.2d 119, N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept.,1990.

A student religious journal Al-Ittihad publishes an unfavorable review of a translation of the Qu’ran by Rashad Khalifa, using the words “charlatan” and “mental imbalance.” Khalifa sues the journal for libel. Khalifa v. Muslim Students' Ass'n of U. S. and Canada, Inc., 131 Ariz. 328, 641 P.2d 242, Ariz.App., 1981

A California television station broadcasts “Death of a Princess,” a film depicting the public execution of a Saudi Arabian princess for adultery. Prince Khalid Abdullah Tariq Mansour Faissal Fahd Al Talal, on behalf of 600 million Muslims throughout the world, sues the television station for libel. Khalid Abdullah Tariq Mansour Faissal Fahd Al Talal v. Fanning, 560 F. Supp. 186 (N.D. Cal. 1980)

The Evening Star newspaper publishes an article describing political activist Dolphin Thomas as a chief spokesman for Malcolm X and his Black Muslim Mosque. Thomas sues the Star for libel. Thompson v. Evening Star Newspaper Co., 394 F.2d 774 (D.C. Cir. 1968).

The Birmingham Post reports that an Arab sheik is interested in acquiring an American bride for his harem, and describes what he is looking for and some of his good attributes. The newspaper is sued for libel. White v. Birmingham Post Co., 233 Ala. 547, 172 So. 649, Ala. 1937.

Legal efforts to control how Muslim organizations and individuals are portrayed is not limited to public statements. They extend to non-public statements about Muslim employees’ job performance. This list above does not contain other lawsuits that are more akin to the recent US Airway litigation: Muslim employees who sued for their employers for libel, alleging that their employers spoke about their job performance to state licensing boards created to assure quality health care, or government agents or persons employed by the university or company responsible for investigating the employment discrimination allegations that arose from the libel actions themselves. Mawaldi v. St. Elizabeth Health Center, 381 F.Supp.2d 675 (N.D. Ohio 2005); Shabazz v. PYA Monarch, LLC, 271 F.Supp.2d 797 (E.D.Va. 2003); Obu v. Ohio Dept. of Aging,119 Ohio Misc.2d 131, 774 N.E.2d 812, Ohio Ct.Cl.,2002; Ahmed v. Gelfand,160 F.Supp.2d 408 (E.D.N.Y. 2001); Naeemullah v. Citicorp Services, Inc., 78 F.Supp.2d 783 (N.D.Ill. 1999); El-Ghori v. Grimes, 23 F.Supp.2d 1259 (D.Kan.1998); Al-Khazraji v. Saint Francis College, 523 F.Supp. 386 (W.D. Pa. 1981). In all of these lawsuits, the libel complaints were dismissed by the court, which ruled that the employee had no action. There must have been some very disappointed lawyers.

These cases may be the tip of the iceberg. Although truth is a defense to libel lawsuits, it generally takes thousands of dollars to establish the truth sufficiently to achieve a dismissal. Settlement is sometimes the best option, no matter how unmeritorious the allegations. When that happens, there will be no court opinion. Thus, we do not know how many more cases are out there in which someone facing steep legal bills chose to quietly settle. For those defendants, they will probably never mention the word Islam again in public. Who loses then? In the long run, fear of discussion has costs to society’s search for the truth. Some of us like the fact that information flows so efficiently, and we want to keep it that way.

Moreever [sic], the truth is not always obvious when the lawsuit is being pursued. It often takes many years and much more lively American dialogue to get there. That means the use of litigation to control the flow of information should matter to those all who appreciate the gradual pace at which knowledge develops. There is now no question that GRF was under investigation - it has since been designated as a terrorist financier by President Bush. Cat Stevens’ conversion to Islam and his relocation to Iran is now common knowledge, as is the CIA‘s involvement in Afghanistan through Pakistani intermediaries. Historically, with some libel actions, we sometimes look back years late and wonder how anyone could have questioned the information then at issue, either because it is so obviously true or because our mores have changed. Then we feel dirty.

...[O]f these cases I list above, there was only one that was not dismissed in favor of the defendants - the oldest one, involving the Arab Sheik looking to acquire an American wife. In that 1937 case, the Alabama judge refused the dismiss the libel action...
Read the entire article.

Litigation jihad — another of the tactics used to accomplish the Islamification of the West and to silence the critics of Islam. Is the blogosphere next on their hit-list?

[Hat-tip to Maccus Germanis for providing me this link]

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posted by Always On Watch @ 8/07/2007 08:01:00 AM