A new study by Citizens for National Security documents almost 150 instances where the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity, used a tactic known as “lawfare” to intimidate its opponents.
The Lawfare Project defines “lawfare” as the “abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends.” This includes the “negative manipulation of international and national human rights laws to accomplish purposes other than, or contrary to, those for which they were originally enacted.”
The American Islamists’ use of lawfare is primarily in the form of frivolous lawsuits and legal threats meant to stifle free speech. Even if the Islamists’ targets have done no wrong and are sure to win any court case, the high legal costs and controversy they incur punish and potentially bankrupt them.
“Lawfare is the newest, most visible and increasingly emergent form of asymmetric warfare, which must be countered both tactically and strategically,” says Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project.
The problem is so prevalent that the United Nations reported in 2008 that it “has served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest.” Non-profit groups like the Lawfare Project and the Legal Project have had to rise up to defend victims.
Another study by the Lawfare Project finds multiple incidents where CAIR and its Islamist allies used lawfare to threaten critics.
In 2003, CAIR filed a defamation lawsuit against former North Carolina Congressman Cass Ballenger because of an answer he gave to a reporter about CAIR. He described the organization as a fundraising arm for the Hezbollah terrorist group.
The statement was false—but not because CAIR was innocent. CAIR has been linked to Hamas, another terrorist group (not Hezbollah). The lawsuit was thrown out.
Counter-terrorism expert Joe Kaufman wrote an article criticizing the Six Flags amusement park for holding a special event organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a CAIR ally with Muslim Brotherhood links. Local groups affiliated with CAIR sued Kaufman even though he didn’t mention any of the plaintiffs in the article.
After a lengthy and expensive legal battle, CAIR lost. But its objective wasn’t winning the case, per se. The objective was to punish a prominent critic, deter future opponents and make an adversary toxic. For example, publishers are much less likely to invest in an author with a history of being sued.
Another victim is Chris Gaubatz, who bravely infiltrated CAIR and was the lead researcher on a book about what he learned about the organization.
“I was surprised at how much I learned about propaganda, lawfare and media manipulation while performing research as an intern in CAIR-National. They are masters of media manipulation, working to control the opinion of the 7% of the electorate in our democracy that is involved politically,” he said in an interview with the Clarion Project.
And it’s not just CAIR that is using the tactic.
Arguably the most famous case of lawfare involves Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld. She was sued by a Saudi billionaire for her book linking him to terrorism-financing, along with along with 45 other publishers and journalists. She was the only one that did not settle, and it took a heavy financial toll on her.
Dr. Ehrenfeld won the lawsuit and ultimately, the SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage), also known as “Rachel’s Law,” was passed to protect Americans from the lawfare of foreigners by stopping enforcement of foreign libel suits against Americans that don’t meet American constitution standards of due process and First Amendment protection.
The Islamic Society of Boston, a mosque with undeniable, documented links to the Muslim Brotherhood, sued 17 people in the media that reported on these facts, specifically its funding from Saudi Arabia. As soon as the mosque was required to hand over financial records, the Islamic Society of Boston dropped the lawsuit.
Lawfare is also used on government agencies. In 2011, CAIR teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the FBI for supposedly illegally spying on innocent Muslims. The ACLU has a history of partnering with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and its allies for lawfare.
CAIR and its allies are deploying the same tactic against the NYPD today.
The NYPD is being sued by Islamist leaders and organizations for conducting surveillance. The controversy captures headlines, but the NYPD’s justification does not. These lawsuits help CAIR and its allies mislead the public about the NYPD’s operations and integrity.
On the international level, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is trying to force compliance with Sharia Law through lawfare. It is lobbying hard for international laws criminalizing “hate” speech towards religions. The OIC hopes to outlaw criticism of Islam as Sharia requires.
“It’s the OIC’s attempt to pressure non-Muslims to comply with Islamic blasphemy codes. Its target is the West and failure to comply with its demands is deemed ‘Islamophobic’ even when no actual bigotry or prejudice is present,” explained Deborah Weiss in an interview with the Clarion Project.
Lawfare is a powerful, non-violent tactic. Most writers and publishers cannot muster the financial resources to fight the American Islamists. It is simply more affordable to cave and settle, or to avoid offending them at all.
Thanks to lawfare, critics of radical Islam are faced with a choice between potential bankruptcy and telling the truth.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.