Monday, July 6, 2009

Will "legal jihad" silence online critics of Islam?

Here's a look at "Legal Jihad", how it works and what damage it may be able to do.

Will "legal jihad" silence online critics of Islam?

Court wades into brewing battle over rights of Internet journalists

Posted: July 04, 2009
7:00 pm Eastern

By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

When Internet journalist Joe Kaufman wrote an article exposing terrorist connections in two American Muslim groups, he was sued by a swarm of Islamic organizations, none of which he had mentioned in his online article.

The technique is called by some "legal jihad" or "Islamist lawfare," and the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Kaufman in the lawsuit, claims Muslim advocates are using the strategy to bully online journalists into silence.

"The lawsuit against Kaufman was funded by the Muslim Legal Fund for America. The head of that organization, Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example," claims a Thomas More statement on the case. "Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats."

The organizations suing Kaufman also sought to legally deny him certain legal protections granted to traditional journalists, claiming that as an Internet writer, his right to seek a quick and inexpensive dismissal of the case didn't apply.
The case set up a battle, not only between Islamic advocates and those that would question their political connections, but also between organizations that fly low under the mass media's radar, enjoying little public scrutiny, and the burgeoning field of Internet journalism that often investigates places the mainstream media ignores.

In an unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the Texas Second Court of Appeals, however, not only did the court rule that the Muslim organizations had no basis for claiming defamation – since Kaufman didn't name or point to them in his article – but the judges also declared that online journalists do merit the same status and legal protections that their more traditional media peers enjoy.
Though the case against Kaufman is therefore dismissed for now, the Law Center reports the seven Muslim organizations have filed an appeal, continuing their quest for, according to court documents, "injunctive relief related to Kaufman's existing and future Internet publications."