The Law as Weapon
Islamic supremacists are at war with freedom of speech in the West: The 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference has been campaigning for years now at the United Nations to compel Western states to criminalize “religious hatred”—that is, honest discussions of how Islamic jihadists use Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence and to recruit peaceful Muslims to their cause. One little-noted weapon in this war is the courtroom: using libel and defamation laws as weapons to cow critics and intimidate them into silence. My courageous and indefatigable colleague Pamela Geller is the latest target.
Muslim foes of the freedom of speech have used this weapon frequently over the years. The Hamas-linked Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has sued many, and has threatened legal action against many more. In 2006 CAIR dropped a $1.35 million libel suit against Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR, who had called CAIR a “terrorist front organization,” after Whitehead’s lawyers asked probing questions about the group during the discovery process.
In another notable case, billionaire Saudi Khalid bin Mahfouz sued writer Rachel Ehrenfeld in libel-friendly Britain for writing in her book Funding Evil that he was involved in funding Hamas and al-Qaeda. Bin Mahfouz denied that he had knowingly given money to either. This case became the foundation for new laws protecting American writers from libel rulings in other countries.
Now Ohio lawyer Omar Tarazi has filed a $10-million defamation lawsuit against Geller for elements of her reporting on the case of Rifqa Bary, the teenage girl who kicked off a year-long custody battle when she fled from her home in fear for her life after her Muslim father discovered her conversion to Christianity. (The battle ended when Rifqa turned eighteen and was free to live on her own as a Christian.)
Tarazi was the lawyer for Rifqa Bary’s parents. Tarazi objected to Geller’s referring to him as their “CAIR-appointed lawyer,” although his connections to CAIR had actually been reported by others earlier, and there was photographic evidence that CAIR was extensively involved in advising Rifqa Bary’s parents. Geller’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact that her reporting about the case included “accurate reports of statements of others” and “true statements simply.” But there are larger implications of the suit itself.
Geller explains that with his suit, Tarazi is “trying to shut me up, and those like me.” She notes that his suit, if successful, will also have the effect of discouraging apostates from Islam, like Rifqa Bary, from going public. Thus, she says, with this suit he is “using our judicial system to shut down free speech and impose the Sharia”—a system of fundamentalist laws, one of which forbids Muslims to leave Islam on penalty of death.
“Rifqa Bary,” says Geller, “was a rebuke to all of the lies of Islamic supremacist narrative,” since she brought to national attention the Islamic death penalty for apostates, which Islamic apologists in the West routinely deny even exists. The Rifqa Bary affair, Geller explains, was a test case: Would Islamic supremacists be able to manipulate the American legal system to compel someone wishing to leave Islam to return to it, or would her freedom of conscience be upheld?
When Rifqa turned eighteen without having been forced back into her parents’ home, CAIR and its allied forces suffered a major setback. “Her victory,” said Geller, “is a stunning defeat for them and they will take it out on anyone who helped her.”
Tarazi’s lawsuit is a flagrant attempt at legal bullying, and its goal is obvious. With her ongoing efforts to shed light on the human rights abuses inherent in Sharia, including the death penalty for apostates from Islam, Pamela Geller is today one of the foremost opponents of Islamic supremacism. That is why its adherents are so desperate to silence her, for to do so would be to silence one of the foremost voices of the anti-jihad resistance.
In the face of this attempt at legal intimidation, Geller is defiant: “It won’t work. We won’t stop.” We may only hope that the American legal system is up to a similarly stout-hearted defense of freedom and human rights.