The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Inc. filed suit against Andrew Whitehead, one of the founders of Anti-CAIR (or ACAIR), in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court on March 31, 2004.
(The motion for judgment closely resembles an earlier "cease and desist" letter from CAIR to Whitehead.)
The lawsuit alleges that CAIR is the victim of "libelous defamation" because of five Anti-CAIR statements in particular (the quotes that follow are exactly as presented in the motion):
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."
These statements, CAIR claims, "are false, and were false when made." Further, Anti-CAIR made them "with knowledge of their falsity." The statements are libelous because "they impute the commission of a criminal offense." They allegedly caused injury to CAIR's "standing and reputation throughout the United States and elsewhere."
In compensation, CAIR seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, $350,000 in punitive damages, plus its legal fees and interest as of April 16, 2004.
Comments: (1) This case is of personal interest because CAIR has repeatedly attacked me and Anti-CAIR has often come to my defense. It is of wider interest because CAIR is a sizeable organization based in North America; for more information on it group, see my 2002 article, an extensive bibliography, and a lively discussion forum here.
(2) I have cited Anti-CAIR before in my writings about the arrest on terrorism charges of a former CAIR employee, and I found its reporting accurate on this subject.
(3) To the best of my knowledge, this is CAIR's first law suit against a critic. The closest to this until now was a personal law suit by an employee of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush, not by the organization itself. (As Anti-CAIR itself has reported, the suit was dismissed.)
(4) CAIR, which is quick to announce its own activities to the world has been curiously silent about this law suit.
Questions: I wonder why CAIR would bring a defamation suit. (1) It opens CAIR, usually a highly secretive organization, to the discovery process. For Andrew Whitehead to defend himself in court, in other words, he is entitled to ask for the production of documents relating to such matters as CAIR's founding, funding, mission, and goals, then to grill persons associated with CAIR.
(2) CAIR presumably has no knowledge of Andrew Whitehead's financial resources; for all it knows, it is suing someone without means for about $1.5 million.
(3) Anti-CAIR until now has been a well-kept secret. The website ranking service at alexa.com puts www.Anti-CAIR-net.org at 1.5 millionth most viewed. CAIR's website, in contrast, is at 150,000th. This libel lawsuit will likely help Anti-CAIR in terms of website visitors, subscribers to its e-mail service, news coverage, and funding.
Did CAIR – a tactically clever organization – make an error here – perhaps Anti-CAIR's constant criticisms caused it to react emotionally? Or has it made a calculating move too subtle for outsiders to discern? Answers should be forthcoming in the months ahead
April 6, 2004 update: An article in today's Virginian-Pilot contains a few new pieces of information.
- When it comes to money, Andrew Whitehead, a retired Navy enlisted man and college student, says "I haven't got any."
- Whitehead reports that Anti-CAIR has about five members. But Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's spokesman, claims to have better intel than Whitehead; he informed the newspaper about Anti-CAIR, "It's just one guy."
- Hooper added that while Whitehead is not CAIR's only critic, "he is one of the most egregious."
Also of interest is the fact that today's "American Muslim News Briefs," CAIR's more-or-less daily e-mail service containing newspaper clippings and CAIR press releases, sent out today at 6 p.m. EDT, contains not a word about its filing a law suit against Whitehead, the Virginian-Pilot news story, or the above article.
Apr. 30, 2004 update: Represented by the powerhouse law firm of Greenberg Traurig, Whitehead today filed his reply to the CAIR law suit and for good measure he countersued on grounds of an Anti-SLAPP suit, a common law civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intimidation and harassment motivated by religious and ethnic animosity, and defamation and slander. Whitehead asks the court to dismiss CAIR's suit, then award him $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, plus costs, expenses and reasonable attorney's fees. Whitehead's documentation about CAIR is impressive and worth a read. Again, CAIR's publicity machine has made no mention of this quite interesting news concerning itself.
June 20, 2005 update: CAIR reduced the number of alleged libelous statements to just two (the first two quoted above) in its amended motion, dated today.
July 28, 2005 update: Sharon Chadha and I discuss this reduction in charges in an article published today, "CAIR Founded by 'Islamic Terrorists'?"
Mar. 23, 2006 update: Whitehead reports on his website that his "CAIR lawsuit is over, and has been dismissed, as the parties have reached a mutually agreeable settlement." He adds that "The policies and procedures of Anti-CAIR (ACAIR) have not changed in any way as a result of the CAIR lawsuit settlement."
Apr. 21, 2006 update: In "CAIR Backs Down from Anti-CAIR," I document and explain how Whitehead of Anti-CAIR "won a sweet victory, while CAIR suffered a humiliating defeat." With this development, what I identified in 2004 as "CAIR's Growing Litigiousness" appears to have come to an end.
June 5, 2007 update: I place the legal jihad waged by CAIR and others in context in an article today, "Islamists in the Courtroom."