One of the advantages of armed jihad is that it is easily identifiable. Intelligence services only need to look either for arms, of jihad cells or terror preachers. Unfortunately another kind of jihad has been gaining ground, spreading especially among the branch of Islam which is ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is parallel to the so-called “jihad of word” and has become known as “jihad by court”. Any journalist, politician, lawyer or intellectual who talks or writes either about Islam or some of its representatives in a critical way taken to court for outraging a “group of people because of their religion.”
The lawsuit that was initiated by The Union of the Islamic Organizations of France and the Great Mosque of Paris against the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” for republishing the Danish cartoons about Muhammad is one of the most recent examples of this kind of jihad. In March 2008, the Paris Court of Appeals rejected all the accusations as, the cartoons, “which clearly refer only to a part not to the whole Muslim community, cannot be considered neither an outrage nor a personal and direct attack against a group of people because of their religious faith and do not go beyond the limits of freedom of expression.”
The French Court acted in a responsible and sensible way, but what happened to “Charlie Hebdo,” and keeps on happening to many writers and journalists should lead us to conclude that: first, the attacks of “jihad by court” do not come from all Muslims, they come from so-called “Islamic communities and organizations” that usually are simple non-profit associations which do not represent anybody but themselves; most Muslims do not even belong to them. Second, there seems to be a clear strategy, aiming at the destruction of our freedom of expression, which takes advantage of our democratic system.
Islam is a plural entity: there never was, is or ever will be a “Mr. Islam” who can speak on behalf of the whole Muslim world. For instance, the lawyer who defended the French magazine was a Muslim, while there are many Western lawyers, usually close to the ideology of extremist Islam, who are in the service of “jihad by court.” Also, many victims of “Jihad by court” are Muslim liberal intellectuals who have written against political Islam.
A clear, terrifying example of “jihad by court” is what the Italian former deputy editor-in-chief of the newspapers Corriere della Sera, Magdi Cristiano Allam, wrote in an article published on March 11th 2008. It is a long text but it is worth being quoted: “On Friday March 7th 2008 I received by mail the following: 1. Request for damages from lawyer Luca Bauccio on behalf of Rachid Kherigi al-Ghannouchi, referring to the contents about the latter in my last book ‘Viva Israele’; 2. request for damages from lawyer Luca Bauccio on behalf of Ucoii (Union of the Islamic communities and Organizations in Italy) referring to an article published on Corriere della Sera on September 4th 2007 under the title ‘Those hate preachers against the apostates have reached Italy’; 3. Request for damages from lawyer Luca Bauccio on behalf of Ucoii referring to nine articles of mine published on Corriere della Sera between September 14th 2007 and February 25th 2008. On the same day I received via fax a fourth message: a request for the publication of rectification and apologies sent to the Corriere by the President of Ucoii, the Syrian Mohamed Nour Dachan, referring to an article published on Corriere della Sera on February 25th 2008 under the title ‘Islamic marriage and the risk of imitating Brown’. On March 8th I received via e-mail a fifth message: a request from the law office of Corriere della Sera for a written report pertaining to civil lawsuit against me coming from al-Ghannouchi through his Italian representative, the lawyer Bauccio for three articles of mine. On the same day I got by mail a sixth message about a decree coming from the Preliminary Hearing Judge of the Court of Milan concerning a suit against me by Abdellah Labdidi, imam of the Mosque Er Rahma in Fermo, a small town in central Italy, referring to an article published on Corriere della Sera on November 30th 2003 under the title ‘Friday of hate in some mosques’. On the same Saturday I had a phone conversation with my lawyer, Gabriele Gatti, for another suit against me coming from the head of the Great Mosque in Rome for something I had said during the TV program ‘Otto e Mezzo’ on La7 Channel.
“On Monday 10th March I got the eighth message. It was a call from Bruno Tucci, president of the Union of Journalists of Lazio, a protest from Hamza Piccardo, former national secretary of Ucoii and at present spokesman of the European Muslim Network, to an article of mine published on Corriere della Sera on January 16th 2007 under the title ‘Poligamy, the wife who accuses the head of Ucoii’.”
The evidence that it is a carefully planned strategy comes from the fact that in Italy Ucoii, Rached Ghannouchi, Tariq Ramadan and Yusuf al-Qaradawi are all represented by the same attorney, who also represented the former imam of Varese, a town in Northern Italy, who was charged with terrorism.
Addtionally, this is the same lawyer who last October sent me a request for damages I am alleged to have caused to his client Rached Ghannouchi in the introduction of my anthology Basta! Musulmani contro l’estremismo islamico (Enough! Muslims against Islamic Extremism, Mondadori, Milan 2007). The first session of the trial will take place next June 29th. It is worth mentioning the fact in the same week the legal firm Bauccio sent letters charging of defamation the following people: Giancarlo Loquenzi, editor in chief of the Italian webmagazine “L’Occidentale,” Andrea Nardi, free-lance journalist, Souad Sbai, Italian MP of Moroccan origin and an Italian researcher working for The Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.
A wonderful response to these court attacks comes from the United States of America: the Middle East Forum Legal Project. There are many cases which gave birth to the Project. As we can read in their website (www.legal-project.org): the journalist Rachel Ehrenfeld wrote that Khalid Bin Mahfouz had financial links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas and he sued her in January 2004. He won by default, and was awarded Â£ 30,000 and an apology; CAIR (Council for American-Islamic Relations) accused Andrew Whitehead, director of the Anti-Cair website, to have spread false information injuring the reputation of the Association, then two years later they withdrew the accusation; in May 2005 the Islamic Society of Boston accused seventeen people of defamation, and after two years withdrew the accusation.
The Legal Project website is very explicit in defining this tactic: “Such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics." Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will "get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up."
“Jihad by court” is getting stronger day by day and needs a counter-attack. What happened to Daniel Pipes with the magazine Muslim Weekly and Tariq Ramadan’s false allegations is very telling. As we can read in the press release of March 2008, Muslim Weekly, a London-based publication, issued an apology to Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, concerning a defamatory article it published in February 2007. That article repeated a false allegation, made by Tariq Ramadan, that Daniel Pipes had lied to a conference hosted by London mayor Ken Livingstone in January 2007. (For details of what did occur, see the article by Mr. Pipes, "Is Tariq Ramadan Lying [about Magdi Allam]?")
Upon receipt of a libel complaint from Mr. Pipes, Muslim Weekly agreed that Mr. Pipes had spoken accurately at the conference and that he had not lied. Muslim Weekly apologized to Mr. Pipes for the distress caused by the article. Muslim Weekly's retraction, published both in print and online in the Feb. 29, 2008 issue, reads in full as follows:
“On February 9, 2007, Muslim Weekly published an article, ‘World civilization conference: Professor Tariq Ramadan on Islamic Threat,’ under the byline of Dr. Mozammel Haque, concerning a speech given by Professor Ramadan on 20 January 2007. We reported that he accused Professor Daniel Pipes, an American specialist on the Middle East, of lying in his speech to the same conference about the religion of an Egyptian Muslim. We now understand that Professor Pipes spoke accurately and that he did not lie. We retract what we wrote about him and apologize to Professor Pipes for any distress caused by our article.”
Reacting to this apology, Mr. Pipes said: "I am delighted that Muslim Weekly recognizes there is no truth whatsoever in Tariq Ramadan's allegations concerning my statement at the World Civilization Conference, and that it has forthrightly set the record straight."
All this means that the West has to start reacting the same way Islamic extremism does and start suing people like Tariq Ramadan, Yusuf Qaradawi and their followers, who keep on telling lies and defaming and threatening their “enemies,” either Western and Muslim.
The American Legal Project is worthy of being imitated everywhere. Every European country should have its Legal Project branch acting in cooperation with the main one in the States. I am convinced that this is the only way the West will be able to keep its dearest freedom of speech. Freedom of speech that Islamic extremists know well and use much better than we do.