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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 won.
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 Relations.
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).