Deborah Weiss, esq. is an expert in the Islamist tactic of pushing blasphemy laws under the guides of “combating defamation of religions,” as detailed in her previous interview with the Clarion Project.
She writes for several online publications and was the primary writer and researcher for a new book, The Council on American-Islamic Relations: Its Use of Lawfare and Intimidation, published by Citizens for National Security.
Her current work can be found at www.VigilanceNow.org.
The following is her interview with Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro:
Ryan Mauro: What are the strongest examples of CAIR using frivolous lawsuits and intimidation to stifle legitimate criticism?
Deborah Weiss: CAIR has filed numerous lawsuits against individuals and organizations as a means to silence speech either regarding CAIR or some Islam-related topic. The complaint usually involves an allegation of “defamation” or “libel” amongst other charges.
However, Islam’s definition of defamation is a far cry from the definition we have in the American legal system. In our system, only a person(s) or organization(s) can be defamed, not an idea or a religion. Additionally, any statement that is true is not considered defamatory regardless of how negative it is. By contrast, Islam and CAIR consider anything that sheds a negative light on Islam or Muslims to be defamation even if it’s true. I think over the years, CAIR has learned that we have much freer speech in our system than does the Middle East.
Most of the time, CAIR winds up dropping the case, settling the case, losing the lawsuit or the suit is dismissed by the court. I doubt if CAIR even expects to win anymore. When it persists, the lawsuit is used as a means to silence CAIR’s opponents by scaring them or bleeding them dry since legal representation costs money. CAIR’s attorneys also often send “cease and desist” letters to its targets threatening legal action, even if it has no plan to carry out the threat.
A good example of one of CAIR’s lawsuits was against Andrew Whitehead who had a website titled, “Anti-CAIR.” First, CAIR sent Andrew a cease and desist letter threatening a lawsuit unless it stopped making “defamatory statements” about CAIR. When the website continued, CAIR filed a lawsuit, claiming that the website’s statements were false and made with malicious intent. It sought one million dollars in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages, plus legal fees. Fortunately the defendant, who is merely an individual with limited funds, found an attorney to represent him pro-bono.
The defendant counter-sued arguing that CAIR’s lawsuit was an anti-SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation), and that it constituted harassment and intimidation. As soon as the lawsuit reached the discovery phase and CAIR was hit with requests to disclose its finances, ties to Hamas and to Saudi Arabia, all of a sudden CAIR dropped most of the charges, leaving only the defamation allegation.
Eventually, the parties settled and the details were undisclosed to the public. But let me put it to you this way: Andrew’s lawyer provided the court with evidence that Andrew’s statements were true, no apology was made and the statements posted on the Anti-CAIR website, which triggered the lawsuit, remain posted to this day.
Another example of lawfare was a letter CAIR’s attorney sent to the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), demanding that it cancel its scheduled speaker, Robert Spencer, who is known to have strong opinions opposing Islamist ideology. He has extensive knowledge on the subject of Islam and has written numerous books. CAIR’s letter threatened legal action if its demands were not met. To its credit, YAF stood firm and indeed, the threat was not carried out.
However, CAIR has also largely switched tactics now that the public has caught wind of its litigious nature. Instead, it uses pressure, coercion, reputation smearing, name calling (“bigot” or “Islamophobe”), misinformation and various types of threats to shut down speakers or get companies to capitulate to its demands.
Mauro: Your book provides a number of examples where CAIR exerts rather serious threats and/or coercive pressure to get individuals, corporations or government entities to comply with its demands. Can you give us a few?
Weiss: Sure. One is example is how CAIR treated Nike several years back when it launched a then-new sneaker called “Nike Air.” Someone protested that the design logo for the word “air” resembled the word “Allah” in Arabic. CAIR mounted immense pressure on Nike demanding that it make a worldwide recall of the product where it would lose very large profits, cease production of the logo, apologize to Muslims globally, donate tens of thousands of dollars to Islamic schools, sponsor Muslim community events and change its own internal production procedures to consult with CAIR on future logo designs to ensure that it would never use a design that “defames” Islam again.
At first, Nike resisted CAIR’s demands, but due to fear of losing entire markets after CAIR threatened a worldwide boycott of, not just of Nike Air sneakers but of all Nike products, Nike finally capitulated on every point. There are numerous other companies that have done the same from food companies to clothing designers to banks. The list is rather broad and comprehensive.
Another example is how CAIR tries to undermine national security. Several years ago, the Obama Administration, in part due to pressure from CAIR, totally rewrote all its national security and counterterrorism training programs. It completely wiped clean any mention of Islamist ideology or Islamic terrorism in its training material. It even discontinued working with counterterrorism experts whom had been training agency professionals for years if they made any mention of Islamic radicalism. Now national security professionals in the FBI, CIA, State Department and National Counterterrorism Center are no longer learning about Islamic terrorism but instead are taught to focus on terrorist behavior.
This is very dangerous because terrorism is merely a tactic. It is spawned by a belief system that encompasses goals, motivations and strategy. If you are unable to name the threat and identify how it operates, it greatly hampers your ability to catch and defeat it in its early stages. It’s much more likely that it will be caught very late or too late, if at all.
Additionally, CAIR demands the firing of anyone who espouses views it doesn’t want the public to hear. This occurred with former talk show host Michael Graham, who had a radio show on WMAL. In July of 2005, he made the controversial and inflammatory statement that “Islam has become a terrorist organization.” He emphasized that this was merely his opinion, (his show was commentary, not news reporting) and invited callers to weigh in telling him why he was wrong. He also asserted his belief that it didn’t have to remain this way if Muslims who don’t support terrorism would “step forward and reclaim their religion.” Graham stated that he cleared his statements with management prior to airing and was told that they support his right to free speech.
Nonetheless, CAIR went on a mission to have Graham punished for his comments. It started a campaign asking its members to flood WMAL and the show’s sponsors with letters demanding that Graham be penalized. Accordingly, Graham was suspended without pay pending an investigation. But CAIR didn’t stop there. Once Graham was suspended, CAIR then demanded that he be fired from his job. Less than a month later, he was fired. This was not an isolated incident, but one of the tactics that CAIR frequently employs as a method to stamp out speech critical of either CAIR or Islam.
My final example will be that of a movie titled, “[T]he Sum of All Fears”, based on Tom Clancy’s book.
The book was about Islamic terrorists who shot down an Israeli plane which was carrying nuclear weapons over Syria. CAIR insisted that having a film about Islamic terrorists constitutes “negative stereotyping of Muslims.” Nobody ever said all Muslims were terrorists but apparently, in the eyes of CAIR, a Muslim can never be a terrorist, or it amounts to “stereotyping.” The producer said that he was getting complaints before the script was even written. CAIR protested the story line literally for years before the release of the film. In the end, the film was changed to depict the villains as Australian Neo-Nazis instead of Islamic terrorists. This also is not an isolated incident. CAIR often protests storylines or plots in TV shows, films and the media. That includes both fiction and non-fiction.
Mauro: How does CAIR get away with its activities without being prosecuted? Are there loopholes in the legal system that is CAIR exploiting?
Weiss: Theoretically, CAIR could and probably should be prosecuted for whatever role it played in funneling money to Hamas regarding the Holy Land Foundation trial, whether its involvement was direct or more attenuated. It should also be required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
Aside from that, because it doesn’t overtly espouse an immediate overthrow of the U.S. government or violence, it isn’t considered a terrorist organization. In order for CAIR as an entity (or other Muslim Brotherhood front groups such as the Islamic Society of North America or the MPAC) to be prosecuted or shut down, the State Department would have to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and then treat all its affiliates as one entity. To date, it has not done that.
In terms of CAIR’s coercive activities, it’s very hard to say it’s illegal. For an activity to be illegal, it has to meet every element of a statutory crime. Frequently, CAIR’s activities will meet, for example, three out of four elements. I’m not sure it’s a coincidence. Either way, it might be wrong, but technically, it wouldn’t be prosecutable. Every jurisdiction determines its own requirements regarding what constitutes criminal activity.
But I’ll give you an example. Generally, the definition of extortion is the taking of another person’s property by wrongful use of actual or threatened violence, force or fear under color of official right. So, a threat must be made to the other person. It doesn’t have to be a threat to physical injury; it can be a threat to harm the reputation of your business or a threat to hurt one of your family members. There has to be willful or purposeful intent. In other words, sometimes people will take someone else’s property by mistakenly thinking it’s theirs. That wouldn’t qualify for extortion; it’s simply a mistake.
Some jurisdictions require that property must actually be acquired and some jurisdictions state that the intent to take the property is sufficient. Obviously, CAIR threatens individuals and corporations in a myriad of ways. But, there’s no evidence that it actually steals or seizes property, so therefore CAIR’s conduct doesn’t rise to the level of extortion. There are numerous crimes for which CAIR’s conduct with meet all of the elements except for one. That isn’t sufficient to charge it with a crime.
Mauro: What can be done to protect Americans from CAIR’s pernicious influence?
Weiss: I have recommendations for the government and recommendations for the general public.
First and foremost, the government should cut all ties with CAIR. This means all federal agencies and local law enforcement agencies should terminate its relationship with CAIR, stop consulting with them, and stop asking them for advice. CAIR is a terrorist-tied organization with an anti-freedom agenda.
Working with CAIR leadership gives it cover of legitimacy and, in my opinion, it is the farthest thing from a legitimate civil rights organization. CAIR does not seek what is in the best interest of American national security, and even if it did, it certainly has no qualifications to advise national security or counterterrorism professionals.
Second, because CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, it should be held to account. There is no reason that the Department of Justice cannot proceed with a prosecution and it ought to do so.
Because CAIR receives large donations from foreign principals and worked with foreign entities like the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference], CAIR should be required to register under the Foreign Agent Act (FARA) which mandates periodic disclosure of the agents’ relationships with foreign entities, as well as disclosure of its activities and finances.
There should probably also be a congressional investigation and hearings on CAIR in order to better inform Congressmen, their staff and the public about the truly subversive, deceptive and seditious nature of CAIR.
It’s unfortunate that Congressman Peter King was so maligned when he held hearings on homegrown radicalization. He was truly brave to try to address threats to our homeland’s security in an environment of political correctness that values votes and popularity more than safety. I’m sure that a hearing about CAIR would cause a similar uproar, but if it’s presented properly, and it’s made clear that the focus is this particular organization rather than all Muslims, it should be done. After all, there is substantial evidence of CAIR’s terrorist ties, illicit funding, arguably illegal activities and open support for State-designated terrorist organizations. I think it would be difficult even for the most clueless of Congressmen, like Jackie Speier, to argue that all of this should be given a pass.
Finally, the State Department should officially designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). The Muslim Brotherhood has its roots in Egypt, and Egypt recently designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Now would be the perfect time for the U.S. to do the same. It would really solve a lot of problems here in the U.S. Labeling the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would allow law enforcement and national security agencies to really keep an eye on any NGO’s that are affiliated with the Brotherhood and perhaps even shut them down.
As far as what individuals can do, the first course of action is to make sure you are educated. Keep up to date on CAIR’s activities in your neighborhood as it is very active on a number of fronts. Inform your family, friends and neighbors about CAIR’s history, goals, ideology and terrorist ties.
Second, do what you can to persuade your church or synagogue not to engage with CAIR or to invite them to “interfaith dialogues” or panels. This just legitimizes them and gives them an opportunity to provide disinformation for those in the audience who are naïve and really come to learn something.
Watch your school boards and make sure nobody from CAIR is on them. Run for a school board position yourself, or campaign for someone else who might make a good candidate. Islamists are rewriting school textbooks so it’s important to keep an eye on who is influencing the classrooms.
Hold your elected officials accountable, but keep in mind that it’s always easier to run a candidate that shares your positions than to change the positions of those already in office. Often-times, politicians are not familiar with what CAIR really is because they have a lot on their plate. A cursory, superficial glance at CAIR might not be sufficient to uncover their insidious nature. Any constituent has the right to meet with his representatives on a local level. You can put together some articles, papers and a one page paper listing the critical points about CAIR and provide them to staffers.
Most importantly, fight back. If you attend a university or belong to an organization that has a scheduled speaker which CAIR is coercing you to cancel, don’t cave in. You have the right to freedom of speech. Your speaker has the right to freedom of speech, and the public has the right to hear more than one side of an issue. If CAIR doesn’t like it, it can have its own event with different speakers. You won’t be able to change CAIR, but don’t let CAIR change you.
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