Military strategist Karl von Clausewitz famously said, "War is merely politics by other means."
It could just as easily be said that "lawfare" is war, politics and religion by other means.
What is lawfare? Lawfare is sometimes known as "stealth jihad," "soft jihad," "legal jihad" or "creeping sharia." In the same way that Muslim terrorists hijacked American planes and flew them into American buildings on 9/11, some Muslims are hijacking the West's freedoms and legal system to undermine civilization itself. The strategy might even be called "jihadist jujitsu." (also see parts 1-3)
As expert Brooke Goldstein of the Legal Project of the Middle East Forum) explains in a new report in The Counter Terrorist (Feb/March 2009), in the last decade, lawfare involves Islamist activists,
"Filing a series of malicious lawsuits in American courts and abroad, designed to punish and silence those who engage in public discourse about radical Islam. (...) The lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, and undertaken as a means to intimidate, demoralize, and bankrupt defendants.
"Claims are often based on frivolous charges ranging from defamation to workplace harassment, from 'hate speech' to 'Islamophobia,' and have resulted in books being banned and pulped, thousands of dollars worth of fines, and publishing houses and newspapers rejecting important works on counter-terrorism out of fear of being the next target."
Twenty years ago, the West was shocked when Muslim leaders issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Today, the West itself permits Muslims to issue virtual fatwas of their own, in the form of lawfare suits that chill freedom of speech just as effectively.
Islamists have had mixed results with the lawfare strategy. Sometimes they drop their suits when they realize the discovery process will expose their ulterior motives and troubling financial ties to the world.
In other cases, their targets are so intimidated that they capitulate without a fight. Saudi businessman and terror financer Khalid bin Mahfouz boasts on his website that he has "coerced more than forty retractions or judgments against those who linked him to terrorism." In 2007, Mahfouz merely had to threaten to sue a prestigious British book publisher to get his way. At Mahfouz's insistence, the four-hundred year old Cambridge University Press took their new book Alms for Jihad out of print, pulped all unsold copies and even ordered libraries to remove the book from their shelves.
Mahfouz also went after author Rachel Ehrenfeld, after she wrote a book which, like Alms for Jihad, detailed his financial links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Using a strategy known as "libel tourism," he sued her in the UK, even though neither he nor Ehrenfeld lived there. The UK's plaintiff-friendly libel laws helped Mahfouz win the suit against Ehrenfeld in 2004, and she was ordered to pay a large fine and apologize.
Rather than do either, she countersued Mahfouz in a New York court. She lost, but shortly thereafter, the state legislature unanimously passed the Libel Terrorism Protection Act to help protect American authors from enduring a similar legal ordeal. This in turn spurred Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to introduce the Free Speech Protection Act in the House of Representatives earlier this week, to make "Rachel's Law" truly national.
Phyllis Chesler has been writing about the subject of Islamist lawfare for years. She explains the thinking behind the strategy:
"We have been protecting intolerant hate speech and Big Lies as free speech under First Amendment guidelines. Simultaneously, Islamic jihadists and Muslim-American religious separatists have been adopting and aggrieved ethnic' point of view to press for separatist rights under American civil rights law and under the First Amendment.
"At the same time, any critique of their doing so is quickly labeled 'racist' and marginalized by the mainstream media and by politically correct progressives -- as well as by Muslim-Americans. Similar, such trends are even more advanced in Europe which
has led Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to call for a First Amendment for all of Europe. However, such an amendment would have to be enforced and in the current climate, this is doubtful."
In other words, lawfare could never have succeeded without the pressure of political correctness, which has been established and enforced throughout the West by atheist, secular, "free-thinking" liberals - the very people one would expect to rise up against stealth jihad.
Someone who knows about this firsthand is Canadian Ezra Levant. He is the only person in the world to face prosecution for publishing the so-called "Danish Mohammed cartoons." After a three year fight, he won - in the sense that he was found "not guilty" of "Islamophobia" by a Human Rights Tribunal -- but the battle cost him his magazine, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
"Lawfare doesn't work without collusion of what Vladimir Lenin called 'the useful idiots of the West.' In Lenin's day, those were Western 'intellectuals' who willingly, even eagerly, engaged in anti-Western propaganda, espionage and sabotage for the Soviet Union, usually without compensation except for their own misguided feelings of moral righteousness. In today's lawfare, the foreign-born jihadis are aided by domestic leftist busybodies, usually in the 'human rights' industry."
Daniel Pipes has established The Legal Project to raise awareness about, and fight against, the Muslim lawfare phenomenon.
The Legal Project "works in four distinct ways to counter the Islamist threat:"
1) Fundraising for an Escrow account to supplement the court costs and litigation fees for victims of Islamist lawfare - all funds raised go directly to lawfare victims,
2) Arranging for pro bono and reduced rate counsel for victims of Islamist lawfare,
3) Maintaining an international network of attorneys dedicated to working pro bono in the defense of free speech and,
4) Raising awareness about the issue. Efforts include briefings by legal experts on how to avoid libelous statements, and consultations with libel lawyers before publishing on certain topics
Along with brave politicians like Rep. Peter King, The Legal Project is leading the counterattack against Muslim lawfare.
However, this fight is an uphill battle, because the West's enemies are using its cherished freedoms against it. Do we have to abandon our liberties and legal system to fight our enemies, and if so, some critics ask, what would that make us?
While attempting to silence others, radical Muslims use the internet to recruit members and spread propaganda. That's the subject of the next installment in this series.
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book, The Tyranny of Nice: How Canada crushes freedom in the name of human rights - and why it matters to Americans, features an introduction by Mark Steyn. Shaidle is also an advisor for the International Free Press Society.