Because it came up, I thought I might as well take a look back at those grotesque libel cases from the recent past.
One is the suit against Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World (Cambridge University Press, 2006), by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins. Collins wrote it up at History News Network.
On April 3, 2007 Kevin Taylor, Intellectual Property Manager for the Cambridge University Press (CUP), contacted Millard Burr and myself that the solicitors for Shaykh Khalid bin Mahfouz, Kendall Freeman, had informed CUP of eleven “allegations of defamation” in our book Alms for Jihad: Charities and Terrorism in the Islamic World and requested a response.
They sent a response, seventeen pages worth, but CUP considered it not good enough and caved completely.
On May 9, 2007 CUP agreed to virtually all of the Shaykh’s demands to stop sale of the book, destroy all “existing copies,” prepare a letter of apology, and make a “payment to charity” for damages and contribute to legal costs. After further negotiations the press also agreed, on June 20, 2007, to request 280 libraries around the world to withdraw the book or insert an erratum slip. During these three months of negotiations Millard and I had naively assumed that, as authors, we were automatically a party to any settlement but were now informed we “are out of jurisdiction” so that CUP had to ask “whether or not they [the authors] wish to join in any settlement with your client [Mahfouz].” On 30 July 2007 Mr. Justice Eady in the London High Court accepted the abject surrender of CUP which promptly pulped 2,340 existing copies of Alms for Jihad, sent letters to the relevant libraries to do the same or insert an errata sheet, issued a public apology, and paid costs and damages.
And according to Collins they did that not because the case had merit but because it would be too difficult and expensive to fight it in the English courts.
Millard Burr and I had adamantly refused to be a party to the humiliating capitulation by CUP and were not about to renounce what we had written. Alms for Jihad had been meticulously researched, our interpretations judicious, our conclusions made in good faith on the available evidence. It is a very detailed analysis of the global reach of Islamic, mostly Saudi, charities to support the spread of fundamental Islam and the Islamist state by any means necessary. When writing Alms for Jihad we identified specific persons, methods, money, how it was laundered, and for what purpose substantiated by over 1,000 references. I had previously warned the editor at CUP, Marigold Acland, that some of this material could prove contentious, and in March 2005 legal advisers for CUP spent a month vetting the book before going into production and finally its publication in March 2006. We were careful when writing Alms for Jihad not to state explicitly that Shaykh Mahfouz was funding terrorism but the overwhelming real and circumstantial evidence presented implicitly could lead the reader to no other conclusion.
So that’s that bit of history, only seven years ago.