Snoozing through a free-speech conflict

Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic WorldWoe unto the reporter who attempts to write about Islamic charities and the potential ties various groups might have to terrorism in the Islamic world. In a neglected story that could have some legs in the near future, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported a week ago that Cambridge University Press wants to destroy all unsold copies of the book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World (2006), after a libel claim was filed in England by a Saudi banker. The key word in this situation is "England." It's easier to sue people for libel in England than in the United States. Much easier. Anyway, the book apparently suggests that charities and businesses that are tied to Mahfouz financed terrorism in Sudan in the 1990s. The New York Post's opinion pages picked up the story, along with The Orange County Register's op-ed pages and Diane Ravitch of The Huffington Post, but that's about it.

Stanley Kurtz of The Corner, doing our job for us, has this to say:

Here's a story with huge implications for freedom of speech (all negative), and it's apparently gone almost entirely unreported in the mainstream press.

... Given MSM's silence, this looks like one for the blogosphere.

The train seems to have left to the station for the "MSM," as Kurtz so delicately puts it, but alas, there is hope for them yet. How long will it take for an American publisher to take up the manuscript and print the book? How hard will it be to generate a bit of publicity to make it worth their while?

The key here for freedom of speech is that there is plenty of it in the United States and less of it in Britain when it comes to libel laws.

That brings up another uncovered subject: what exactly are the supposed errors in this book? What made Cambridge cave? That ought to be part of the story, as we saw with The Washington Times' coverage of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' declining membership rolls. Facts can be tricky things, especially when dealing with money and worldwide organizations.

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