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Defamation case brought by major Muslim organization settles

Attorney for Anti-CAIR addresses June 6 JCRC meeting

Wendy Margolin image
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently settled its $1.35 million defamation lawsuit against retired U.S. Navy enlisted man Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR (ACAIR). Whitehead's website had charged CAIR with being a Hamas terror front group dedicated to replacing the U.S Constitution with Islamic religious law. The settlement, details of which are confidential, is a "victory" for Whitehead, says lead attorney Reed Rubinstein who spoke at JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council meeting on June 6. All of the allegedly false and defamatory statements that prompted CAIR's suit remain posted on ACAIR's website.

On March 31, 2004 CAIR, which describes itself as one of the nation's most prominent Muslim advocacy organizations, filed suit against Whitehead in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court alleging that CAIR had been the victim of "libelous defamation." Five statements posted on ACAIR's website prompted the suit (see sidebar), including: "CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization partially funded by terrorists, and that CAIR wishes nothing more than the implementation of Sharia law in America." The site also stated that 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."

Rubinstein of Greenberg Traurig LLP's Washington, D.C. office, who took on the case pro-bono, responded to CAIR's complaint with an extensive set of discovery requests seeking information regarding CAIR's Saudi Arabian financial backers, its relationship with Hamas and other terror groups and individuals, and the beliefs of its key leaders regarding Jews, Christians, and Islamic fundamentalism. In response, CAIR amended its complaint, reducing the number of alleged libelous statements to two. CAIR answered only a few of the questions - among other things, it refused to admit Hamas murders innocent civilians - while objecting on various grounds to most of Rubinstein's information requests. Then, in the face of a court hearing on Rubinstein's motion to compel answers, the case settled.

The suit against Mr. Whitehead was one of a number of defamation cases filed by CAIR and other Muslim individuals and groups in the United States and England against their critics. According to the Indianapolis Star, CAIR's legal director gave a seminar at the September 2005 Islamic Society of North America convention regarding how the Muslim community could use the courts to "protect itself" from criticism. However, Rubinstein says that under U.S. law, a plaintiff who files a defamation suit has the burden of proving the statements at hand are false. "Challenging [Mr. Whitehead's] statements opened up [CAIR's] history to scrutiny," says Rubinstein.

The case also brought more attention to ACAIR, according to Rubinstein. "Filing the suit made Mr. Whitehead's allegations more widely distributed than they ever would have been."

Whitehead, on his website, notes, "The content, policies and procedures of Anti-CAIR (ACAIR) have not changed in any way as a result of the CAIR lawsuit settlement. ACAIR, and ACAIR's founder, Andrew Whitehead, will continue to work to expose and present to interested parties any information regarding CAIR that they feel is of importance."

Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for CAIR, says his only comment is that, "His side wrote the check and our side cashed it."

Rubinstein said he was puzzled by Mr. Hooper's comment. "Is Mr. Hooper really suggesting CAIR dismissed its $1.35 million defamation lawsuit and instead 'sold' Mr. Whitehead an on-going right to call CAIR a fundamentalist Islamic terror front group that engages in criminal conduct? The facts speak for themselves. CAIR sued claiming Mr. Whitehead's statements on the Anti-CAIR website were false and defamatory. The parties settled, and CAIR's suit was dismissed with prejudice. The statements remain. I think fair-minded people will and appreciate the implications."

JCRC Chairman Alan Solow applauded Mr. Rubinstein for his pro-bono work, observing that, "CAIR settled the suit without requiring Mr. Whitehead to withdraw his serious allegations. It is our hope that Jewish and non-Jewish groups here in Chicago will become aware of this and draw their own conclusions."

The original five statements as quoted in CAIR's complaint:

1. "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."

2. "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."

3. "ACAIR reminds our readers that CAIR was started by Hamas members and is supported by terrorist supporting individuals, groups and countries."

4. "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."

5. "CAIR is a fundamentalist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the United States Constitution and the installation of an Islamic theocracy in America."

JCRC background on CAIR:
CAIR, founded in 1994, is based in Washington DC, and has over 30 chapters in the U.S. and Canada, including one in Chicago. CAIR describes its purpose as educating the public about Islam and protecting the civil rights of American Muslims.

Several of its spokesmen have a long record of inflammatory statements about America, Israel and Israel's supporters. While some of these statements and problematic associations were made prior to CAIR's inception, they nonetheless are part of a long, well-documented history and ideology linked to CAIR's current leaders.

Two of CAIR's three founders were leaders of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), which is regarded by many as the primary voice in the United States of the terrorist group Hamas.

Shortly after CAIR was formed, it received a $5,000 gift from the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), and CAIR in turn facilitated contributions to HLF, whose assets were frozen in December 2001 by the Treasury Departmentfor supporting Hamas.
Ghassan Elashi, a founding board member of CAIR's Texas chapter was indicted December 17, 2002, for engaging in financial transactions with Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook. Elashi was also a chairman of HLF. He and his brothers were convicted of conspiracy to deal in property with a Specially Designated Terrorist, Mousa Abu Marzook.

CAIR's Chicago presence strengthened after the government's froze the assets of several Muslim fundraising groups and following the Boim civil lawsuit where three local groups and one individual were found liable for Hamas' murder of David Boim and ordered to pay $156 million in damages. Yaser Tabbara, executive director of CAIR-Chicago, said on NBC5 News in response to the Boim case, Tabbara exclaimed, "At the end of the day, what we are witnessing is a modern day lynching and mockery of justice."

Fadi Farhan, the governmental affairs director, on Radio Islam 1450 AM was asked by the host, "Let me run around the panel asking each of you a simple question: one state or two state solution?" Farhan answered, "One state solution is actually in the long term the only way that it's going to work whether it be through war, whether it be through some sort of peaceful resolution of this particular conflict. The two state solution is tantamount to apartheid as far as I can see it…"

Director of JUF's JCRC, Jay Tcath, says, "The 'one state' solution is a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state by non-violent means."

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