The Council on American-Islamic Relations uses litigation as a strategic tool to silence its critics and protect the image it projects of itself as a civil rights group. In a September 2004 post on his blog, Daniel Pipes documented “CAIR’s growing litigiousness.” Among the suits noted by Pipes was CAIR v. Andrew Whitehead, the founder of Anti-CAIR. Pipes discussed the lawsuit in a July 2005 column: “CAIR founded by ‘Islamic terrorists’?”
Yesterday the New York Sun reported that “CAIR settles a libel suit against critic,” the critic being Andrew Whitehead. At his site, Whitehead lists the statements he has made about CAIR that formed the basis of CAIR’s libel claim:
*“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.”
In his Sun article, Josh Gerstein reports:
The terms of the settlement between the Muslim group and Andrew Whitehead of Virginia Beach, Va., are confidential, but the Web site, www.anti-cair-net.org, still includes the statements Cair contended were libelous.
“Nothing has changed in that regard. It’s as if this lawsuit had never existed,” said Mr. Whitehead, 48, a former Navy sailor.
An attorney for Mr. Whitehead, Reed Rubenstein, described the outcome as a victory for his client. “This is the first time somebody has stood up and stopped these folks,” the lawyer said.
A spokesman for Cair, Ibrahim Hooper, confirmed that the libel case was dismissed earlier this month on the request of both parties. “It was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount,” he said.
Asked if he was suggesting that Mr. Whitehead paid the organization to drop the case, Mr. Hooper said, “We filed the suit.” Asked again, the spokesman simply repeated the statement.
An attorney for Cair, Jeremiah Denton III, declined to comment.
The group’s lawsuit, filed in a Virginia state court in March 2004, accused Mr. Whitehead of libeling Cair by calling it “a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists.” The suit also charged that Mr. Whitehead falsely claimed Cair was founded by supporters of a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas, and that the organization favored the “overthrow of the United States Constitution” and the imposition of Islamic law, known as Shariah.
In June, Cair amended its suit against Mr. Whitehead, dropping its challenge to several of the statements, including the claim that the group was started by Hamas members and has received funds from terrorists.
Mr. Hooper said that despite the withdrawal of the suit, his organization, which describes itself as “a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group,” still contends that Mr. Whitehead’s assertions are false. “We’ve always denied them. We continue to deny them,” the spokesman said.
Mr. Rubenstein said Cair’s interest in settling the suit intensified late last year just as a judge was considering whether the group should be forced to disclose additional details about its inner workings, including its financing and its alleged ties to Hamas and other terrorist groups.
“It 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,” said Mr. Rubenstein, who represented Mr. Whitehead without charge.
I infer that CAIR caved. What might be the reasons? One reason suggested in Gerstein’s article is discomfort regarding information CAIR would have had to disclose in discovery. Another might be the proposition that truth is a complete defense to a claim of libel.