About the Legal Project
The Middle East Forum has established the Legal Project to protect researchers and analysts who work on the topics of terrorism, terrorist funding, and radical Islam from lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech.
Researchers and analysts have been repeatedly targeted in legal actions, including these lawsuits:
Such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics." Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will "get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up."
We therefore must expect that Islamists will engage in future legal efforts along these lines. Indeed, the Islamic Society of North America and Muslim Public Affairs Council have publicly stated that they are considering filing defamation lawsuits against critics.
More specifically, the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced in October 2005 the ambitious fundraising goal of raising $1 million in one month, in part to "defend against defamatory attacks on Muslims and Islam." Shortly after, one of its staffers, Rabiah Ahmed, stated that lawsuits are increasingly an "instrument" for it to use. "The Muslim community realizes that it has to respond to these allegations and to these attacks, otherwise, the people who are promoting these defamatory remarks will win in the court of public opinion." CAIR chairman Parvez Ahmed has stated that "People who make statements connecting CAIR to terrorism should understand the legal consequences of their attempted slander and defamation. The First Amendment does not protect defamation." (However, Federal prosecutors have since made this same connection.)
The Larger Picture
The Islamist movement has two wings, one violent and one lawful, which operate apart but often reinforce each other. This was on display in August 2006, when the Heathrow airport plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean provided an opening for Britain's Islamist establishment to press for changes in Middle East policy.
A similar one-two punch works to stifle the free discussion of Muhammad, the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Eruptions against The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, and Pope Benedict, which caused hundreds of deaths, effectively complement lawsuits such as the ISB's. Emerson correctly notes (in reply to the Muslim Public Affairs Council threatening a lawsuit against him for making "false statements") that "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics."
The Legal Project
The Legal Project works in four distinct ways to counter the Islamist threat
1) Fundraising for an Escrow account to supplement the court costs and litigation fees for victims of Islamist lawfare - all funds raised go directly to lawfare victims,
Geert Wilders Lauds Legal Project
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