The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Inc. filed suit against Andrew Whitehead, one of the founders of Anti-CAIR (or ACAIR), in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court on March 31, 2004.
(The motion for judgment is not presently available online but it closely resembles an earlier “cease and desist” letter from CAIR to Whitehead, which is online.)
The lawsuit alleges that CAIR is the victim of “libelous defamation” because of five Anti-CAIR statements in particular (the quotes that follow are exactly as presented in the motion):
“¢ “Let there be no doubt that CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists, and that CAIR wishes nothing more than the implementation of Sharia law in America.”
“¢ CAIR is an “organization founded by Hamas supporters which seeks to overthrow Constitutional government in the United States and replace it with an Islamist theocracy using our own Constitution as protection.”
“¢ “ACAIR reminds our readers that CAIR was started by Hamas members and is supported by terrorist supporting individuals, groups and countries.”
“¢ “Why oppose CAIR? CAIR has proven links to, and was founded by, Islamic terrorists. CAIR is not in the United States to promote the civil rights of Muslims. CAIR is here to make radical Islam the dominant religion in the United States and convert our country into an Islamic theocracy along the lines of Iran. In addition, CAIR has managed, through the adroit manipulation of the popular media, to present itself as the “˜moderate” face of Islam in the United States. CAIR succeeded to the point that the majority of its members are not aware that CAIR actively supports terrorists and terrorist supporting groups and nations. In addition, CAIR receives direct funding from Islamic terrorists supporting countries.”
“¢ “CAIR is a fundamentalist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the United States Constitution and the installation of an Islamic theocracy in America.”
These statements, CAIR claims, “are false, and were false when made.” Further, Anti-CAIR made them “with knowledge of their falsity.” The statements are libelous because “they impute the commission of a criminal offense.” They allegedly caused injury to CAIR”s “standing and reputation throughout the United States and elsewhere.”
In compensation, CAIR seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, $350,000 in punitive damages, plus its legal fees and interest as of April 16, 2004.
Comments: (1) This case is of personal interest because CAIR has repeatedly attacked me and Anti-CAIR has often come to my defense. It is of wider interest because CAIR is a sizeable organization based in North America; for more information on it group, see my 2002 article, an extensive bibliography, and a lively discussion forum here.
(2) I have cited Anti-CAIR before in this weblog about the arrest on terrorism charges of a former CAIR employee, and I found its reporting accurate on this subject.
(3) To the best of my knowledge, this is CAIR”s first law suit against a critic. The closest to this until now was a personal law suit by an employee of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush, not by the organization itself. (As Anti-CAIR itself has reported, the suit was dismissed.)
(4) CAIR, which is quick to announce its own activities to the world has been curiously silent about this law suit.
Questions: I wonder why CAIR would bring a defamation suit. (1) It opens CAIR, usually a highly secretive organization, to the discovery process. For Andrew Whitehead to defend himself in court, in other words, he is entitled to ask for the production of documents relating to such matters as CAIR”s founding, funding, mission, and goals, then to grill persons associated with CAIR.
(2) CAIR presumably has no knowledge of Andrew Whitehead’s financial resources; for all it knows, it is suing someone without means for about $1.5 million.
(3) Anti-CAIR until now has been a well-kept secret. The website ranking service at alexa.com puts www.Anti-CAIR-net.org at 1.5 millionth most viewed. CAIR”s website, in contrast, is at 150,000th. This libel lawsuit will likely help Anti-CAIR in terms of website visitors, subscribers to its e-mail service, news coverage, and funding.
Did CAIR — a tactically clever organization — make an error here — perhaps Anti-CAIR”s constant criticisms caused it to react emotionally? Or has it made a calculating move too subtle for outsiders to discern? Answers should be forthcoming in the months ahead.