Turns out that now the reach of UK libel laws has been greatly extended. It's a frightening development. In an earlier post I wrote about Rachel Ehrenfeld and how she was sued for libel by the Saudi Khalid bin Mafouz for writing that he had supported terrorism.
But here's what makes Ehrenfeld's story quite different from mine: her book was NOT published in the UK. Some people in the UK [I wonder if it was the Saudis or their lawyers???] bought a copy over the Internet.
Bin Mafouz pounced and Ehrenfeld was ordered to pay him damages. Now the American courts have come to her defense. [Scroll down at this link to find the New York Law Journal report on the Ehrenfeld case.]
Now the Saudis have silenced another book. This one is by J. Millard Burr, a former relief coordinator for Operation Lifeline Sudan, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Robert O. Collins, professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
They have written a number of books on Darfur and Sudan. Their most recent book, Alms for Jihad was published by Cambridge University Press. [Since their book was published in the UK, their case is closer to mine than Ehrenfeld's.]
The authors explore how, in the words of Michael Rubin, writing in the New York Sun:
The Saudi royal family played a pernicious role, founding and promoting charities to spread militant Sunni Islam, not only as an inoculation against resurgent Shi'ism from revolutionary Iran, but also to radicalize the Muslims in Europe and America.The British lawyers for Khalid bin Mahfouz and his son Abdulrahman bin Mahfouz wrote Cambridge University Press saying they intended to sue the Press and the authors for defamation against their clients.
Cambridge University Press contacted the authors,and they provided detailed material in support of their claims made in Alms for Jihad.
Nonetheless, Cambridge University Press decided not to contest the argument and next week they will apologize in court.
As Rachel Ehrenfeld has just written to me in an email: "Get a copy of “Alms of Jihad” before it’s banned..."
[To satisfy the different leanings of readers of this blog I have provided links to Amazon, B&N, and Powells. I would have provided a link to Cambridge University Press but the book seems to have been buried deep within the Cambridge University Press website How's that for rewriting of history?]
Bin Mahfouz apparently has amassed a number of judgements by default, in other words the case was not tried on its merits. Everyone just caves, pays a fine, and gets out of Dodge as fast as they can.
Cambridge Press had pretty deep pockets but it too folded. If I were a reporter writing about this I would see what connections it has with the Saudis... That would be interesting to know.
And now I return to the main point: Why isn't this pattern of silencing by the Saudis of authors who are critical of them been the topic of an article in the mainstream press?
There are important legal precedences here, especially in the Ehrenfeld case, and a disturbing pattern of silencing of criticism by the Saudis.
Where are the free speech advocates now???