Monday, September 10, 2007

Libel Tourism: How two authors got skewered by Cambridge University Press and a Saudi Sheikh

There is a compelling piece on the History News Network by Robert O. Collins, emeritus professor of history at UC Santa Barbara, who co-authored with J. Millard Burr Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, the book which was trashed by Cambridge University Press because Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz accused it of defaming him.

[This is the book about which I alerted readers of this blog to buy before Cambridge pulled it. Sure enough it disappeared from book sellers lists shortly thereafter.]

This, of course, all happened in the UK.

Cambridge University Press decided within a matter of weeks -- if that long -- to fold, abandon the authors, and acquiesce to the Sheikh's charges. During the negotiations with the Sheikh the authors "naively assumed that, as authors, we were automatically a party to any settlement." Of course, had they had a lawyer she/he would have told them that because they were not named in the case by the Sheikh they had no say.

As Professor Collins says, Cambrige abject[ly] surrender[ed].

Mahfouz probably chose not to include them in the suit because he knew that they would then have recourse to turn to the American courts, as Rachel Ehrenfeld is now doing, and challenge the decision of the UK court.

Why has there not been an outcry among academics? Don't they see this as an abridgement of the academic freedom they hold so dear? Why haven't they called attention to the systematic way in which the Saudis are closing down any and all criticism of them?

Why hasn't the media covered this extensively? After all, this development has the potential of affecting them as much as publishers and authors.

Why such silence on this clear issue of free speech?

3 comments:

Ed said...

The complete book, Alms For Jihad, can be downloaded off some of the file sharing sites. I downloaded my copy using eMule. Also 8 of my local libraries have copies.

Bartholomew said...

It's not the first time - in 1997 a religious group forced the SPCK to withdraw a book of sociological essays entitled Harmful Religion

hockey hound said...

"Why has there not been an outcry among academics? Don't they see this as an abridgement of the academic freedom they hold so dear? Why haven't they called attention to the systematic way in which the Saudis are closing down any and all criticism of them?

Why hasn't the media covered this extensively? After all, this development has the potential of affecting them as much as publishers and authors.

Why such silence on this clear issue of free speech?"

Exactly. Because they are afraid of calling a spade a spade. Oriana Fallaci called these people cowards, not just bystanders.