Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Liberty Winning Against Islamic Libel War

For anyone who does not know, City Journal was the think tank behind Mayor Giuliani's revitalization of New York City (perhaps "reconquest" is just as apt a word) in the 1990s. Peggy Noonan still calls it "the best magazine in America."

Judith Miller has a story in the recent issue following up on an issue I addressed in two previous posts, Troubling Saudi Arms Deal and Follow-up on Saudi Terror Funding. Well-funded Islamic organizations and individuals have found it more prudent in the West to silence their critics with libels suits than with violence. If nothing else, the victims pay your expenses. (And you can't beat that!) Recent cases, however, at least in this country, have been discouraging that sort of legal brutality.

  • In 2006, Yale University Press published a book on Hamas by Matthew Levitt of the Institute for Near East Policy. KinderUSA, an Islamic charity, and its board chairman, Laila Al-Marayati, brought a libel suit against Levitt and Yale UP in California state court for linking them with the terrorist organization. In June, Levitt charged his accusers with bringing a SLAPP suit (strategic litigation against public participation), i.e. a suit designed not seriously to recover damages, but simply to intimidate. They won. KinderUSA backed off.
  • In May, the Islamic Society of Boston dropped a suit against the Boston Herald and others for claiming that they had been passing funds to terrorist organizations. In the course of the trial, it came to light that the ISB had in fact given money to two groups on the government's list of terrorist organizations.
  • Earlier this year, six Muslim imams who had been removed from a flight for reportedly suspicious behavior sued US Airways, the Minneapolis airport and several passengers who had reported them. In August, they dropped their suit after Congress passed a law, sponsored by my Congressman, Rep. Peter King (R-LI), protecting such civic spirited tips from intimidating lawsuits. Plaintiffs must prove that the finger pointers lied or they must pay all court and legal fees.
That sounds like a series of victories for domestic Tranquility, the common defence, the general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. Were KinderUSA or the Islamic Society of Boston falsely accused? I am not in a position to judge with certainty, though I certainly have my inclinations on the matter. Either way, the remedy is not to shut down all public inquiry and discussion on the matter -- which has been the effect of plaintiff-friendly libel laws in Britain. Rather, aggrieved parties should defend the truth by challenging and refuting their accusers in public debate.

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