In a stunning setback, the Council on American-Islamic Relations' defamation suit against Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR has been dismissed with prejudice.
The Anti-CAIR website, www.anti-cair-net.org, reports a "mutually agreeable settlement," the terms of which are confidential. However, Whitehead notes that he issued no public apology to CAIR, made no retractions or corrections, and left the Anti-CAIR website unchanged, so that it continues to post the statements that triggered CAIR's suit. Specifically, CAIR had complained about Whitehead calling it a "terrorist supporting front organization … founded by Hamas supporters" that aims "to make radical Islam the dominant religion in the United States." It also objected to being described as "dedicated to the overthrow of the United States Constitution and the installation of an Islamic theocracy in America."
That clears the decks; no additional actions are pending between these two parties. In brief, Whitehead won a sweet victory, while CAIR suffered a humiliating defeat.
CAIR initially filed suit in a Virginia Circuit Court on March 31, 2004, claiming six of Whitehead's statements were false, that Whitehead made them "with knowledge of their falsity," and that the statements were actionable because "they impute the commission of a criminal offense." CAIR further claimed injury to its "standing and reputation throughout the United States and elsewhere," and sought $1 million in compensatory damages, $350,000 in punitive damages, plus legal fees and interest. It did so despite Whitehead's telling a reporter "I haven't got any [money]."
The original five statements as quoted in CAIR's complaint were:
- "Let their [sic] 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."
Reed Rubinstein, the Washington lawyer who successfully countersued CAIR.
Signs of CAIR's problems came in June 2005, when – perhaps realizing how much was available in the public record about its activities, perhaps wishing to curtail some of the discovery process – it amended its complaint by dropping nearly all of its original claims. The amended complaint alleged only two brief statements to be false and defamatory:
- "Let their [sic] be no doubt that CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization."
- CAIR "seeks to overthrow constitutional government in the United States."
(For an analysis of this amended complaint, see Sharon Chadha and my article, "CAIR Founded by 'Islamic Terrorists'?")
In anticipation of a court hearing regarding discovery, Rubinstein filed papers in the Virginia Circuit Court in October 2005 and December 2005 alleging extensive links between CAIR's organizers and control group with Hamas and other foreign and domestic Islamists. Among other things, these papers alleged:
- CAIR's lineage goes back to a key Hamas leader (Musa Abu Marzook), and that CAIR has long been connected with, and "exploited" the 9/11 attacks to raise money for the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group.
- CAIR is heavily supported, financially and otherwise, by suspect Saudi and UAE-based individuals and groups.
- CAIR states that the U.S. judicial system has been "kidnapped by Israeli interests," and claims that anti-terror law enforcement action against the Holy Land Foundation was "an anti-Muslim witch hunt" promoted by "the pro-Israel lobby in America."
CAIR refused to respond to Anti-CAIR's discovery requests in its November 2005 response to Rubinstein. For example, it did not admit that Hamas murders innocent civilians, it refused to disclose the identities of its Saudi donors, it declined to answer whether it aims to convert American Christians to Islam, and it avoided questions about the anti-Semitic and anti-American activities of its founder and executive director, Nihad Awad, including his communications with Hamas terrorists, speeches supporting suicide bombings, and advocacy of violence against Jews.
In March 2006, shortly before a scheduled court hearing to decide on several of Whitehead's requests (compelling CAIR to disclose its financial data, to answer questions about its relationship with Hamas and other Islamists, and to provide information regarding its leaders' activities and intentions), the case was settled and then dismissed with prejudice by stipulation (meaning, the plaintiff has agreed to forever drop all of the claims that were in, or could have been in, the complaint).
Asked about these developments, CAIR's spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, confirmed to the New York Sun that the libel case was dismissed at the request of both parties and added that "It was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount." Asked if he implied that Whitehead had paid the organization to drop the case, Hooper replied, "We filed the suit." Asked the same question again, Hooper repeated the same answer.
Comments: (1) I had a role in this story, for it was my article, "Why Is CAIR Suing Anti-CAIR?" published only a week after CAIR's initial filing, that brought this case to Reed Rubinstein's attention and led to Greenberg Traurig LLP's serving as Whitehead's wonderfully capable, pro-bono legal counsel.
(2) In that initial article, I expressed puzzlement why CAIR would voluntarily expose itself to discovery. Did it file this case expecting to steamroll Whitehead, whom CAIR may have perceived as an easy target, and thereby intimidate its critics? What seemed early on to be a mistake by CAIR is now confirmed as such; it ran into a litigation buzz-saw, and it seems to have cut and run. CAIR preferred the ignominy of walking away from the case it initiated rather than open to public scrutiny its finances, its list of supporters, and the beliefs and intentions of its key leaders.
(3) CAIR's November 2005 brief to the court contains several statements of note:
- "CAIR has established a status of enviable prestige within highest echelons [sic] of the 'Washington establishment'" (p. 3). That is correct and it neatly sums up Sharon Chadha's and my extensive analysis in "CAIR: Islamists Fooling the Establishment."
- CAIR "stands up for America and speaks out against terrorism in pronouncements to the general public, thereby earning the enmity of the very terrorists Whitehead claims CAIR supports" (p. 6). Sounds good, but CAIR did not provide any evidence in its brief of such "enmity."
- "CAIR has communicated with various members of the United States Senate concerning" both the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation. (pp. 27-8) This comes as news. One wonders what information on these two terrorism-funding groups CAIR provided.
- CAIR states that it "advised Frontpagemag.com of possible legal action concerning a doctored photograph it employed to illustrate an article" written by Whitehead (p. 28). It's amusing that CAIR, which itself famously doctored a photograph, accuses FPM of doing this; in fact, FPM merely posted a graphic, as it often does, one showing Hooper with Hamas figures in the background.
(4) Hooper stated the case settled for "an undisclosed amount" but did not disclose in which direction that amount went. The terms being confidential, one can only speculate. Perhaps CAIR desperately wanted out of the burdensome, embarrassing, and harmful case it foolishly had initiated? Rubenstein hinted as much when he observed that CAIR became more disposed to settle in late 2005, when a judge was considering what CAIR would have to divulge about its financing and its ties to Hamas and other terrorist groups. Rubenstein told the New York Sun that the lawsuit "would have opened up CAIR's finances and their relationships and their principles, their ideological motivations in a way they did not want to be made public."
(5) According to CAIR's own analysis of Whitehead's initial statements, they "impute the commission of a criminal offense" by CAIR, in that these suggest CAIR "actively supports" terrorists, and advocates the "overthrow" of the U.S. Constitution in favor of Islamic law. It bears noting that none of these words were found to be false, they were not retracted, and they remain posted on Anti-CAIR's website.
(6) The collapse of this lawsuit, combined with the even more recent ending of two other CAIR legal actions (versus Cass Ballenger and David Harris), suggests that CAIR is no longer the plaintiff in any court cases; more broadly, what I in 2004 called its pattern of growing litigiousness seems finished.
(7) With CAIR's hopes of defeating its opponents in the legal arena at least temporarily defeated, the next step for those of us in North America unwilling to live under Islamic law is to thwart the organization's social and political ambitions. I am doing my part by announcing today the establishment of "Islamist Watch," a new project to combat the ideas and institutions of nonviolent, radical Islam in the United States and other Western countries.
Apr. 21, 2006 update: For a bbliography of the CAIR v. Anti-CAIR lawsuit, see the updates at "Why Is CAIR Suing Anti-CAIR?"
Apr. 21, 2007 update: At a talk on April 11 organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition (and covered by the Philadelphia Exponent), Reed Rubinstein gave a bit more information on the case. He is paraphrased saying that "CAIR decided to settle the case rather than allow opposing consul access to its internal records and documents." Rubinstein learned that CAIR has about 3,000 members and receives most of its funding from abroad.
Not in the article but reported to me but someone who attended: Rubinstein indicated the a major law firm that was going to help CAIR got cold feet, plus some of its donors reneged on promises of financial backing.
Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR is quoted in the article saying that Whitehead had paid his organization an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement.
Also interesting: Steve Rabin, deputy executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, is quoted saying that the NJDC explains to elected officials and candidates that "CAIR is a problematic organization."