West Maghreb Dialogue      More options Apr 25, 9:32 am

Subject: The Saudi Billionaire vs. Cambridge University Press

The Saudi Billionaire vs. Cambridge University Press
By Robert O. Collins
Mr. Collins is emeritus professor of history at UC Santa Barbara and
co-author (with J. Millard Burr) of Alms for Jihad: Charity and
Terrorism in the Islamic World (Cambridge University Press, 2006). The
authors have previously co-authored three books: Requiem for The
Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile (1995), Africa’s
Thirty Years’ War: Chad, Libya, and the Sudan, 1963-1993 (1999), and
Revolutionary Sudan: Hasan al-Turabi and the Islamist State, 1989-2000
On April 3, 2007 Kevin Taylor, Intellectual Property Manager for the
Cambridge University Press (CUP), contacted Millard Burr and myself
that the solicitors for Shaykh Khalid bin Mahfouz, Kendall Freeman,
had informed CUP of eleven “allegations of defamation” in our book
Alms for Jihad: Charities and Terrorism in the Islamic World and
requested a response. On April 20 CUP received our seventeen page
“robust defence,” but it soon became apparent that CUP had decided not
to defend Alms for Jihad given “knowledge of claims from previous
litigation” and that “the top-line allegations of defamation made
against us by bin Mahfouz are sustainable and cannot be successfully
defended …certainly not in the English courts, which is where the
current action arises.”

Of the eleven points of alleged defamation “we [CUP] could defend
ourselves against some of his individual allegations…which, as you say
could hardly be deemed defamatory on its own,” but on pp. 51-52 where
you use the phrase “ ‘The twenty supporters of Al Qaeda’ followed by
the Golden Chain references…is defamatory of him under English law..”
The Golden Chain was a list of twenty wealthy Saudi donors to al-
Qa’ida which included the name “Mahfouz” on a computer disk seized
during a raid by the Bosnian police and U.S. security agents of the
Sarajevo office of the Saudi charity, the Benevolent International
Foundation (Bosanska Idealna Futura, BIF).

On May 9, 2007 CUP agreed to virtually all of the Shaykh’s demands to
stop sale of the book, destroy all “existing copies,” prepare a letter
of apology, and make a “payment to charity” for damages and contribute
to legal costs. After further negotiations the press also agreed, on
June 20, 2007, to request 280 libraries around the world to withdraw
the book or insert an erratum slip. During these three months of
negotiations Millard and I had naively assumed that, as authors, we
were automatically a party to any settlement but were now informed we
“are out of jurisdiction” so that CUP had to ask “whether of not they
[the authors] wish to join in any settlement with your client
[Mahfouz].” On 30 July 2007 Mr. Justice Eady in the London High Court
accepted the abject surrender of CUP which promptly pulped 2,340
existing copies of Alms for Jihad, sent letters to the relevant
libraries to do the same or insert an errata sheet, issued a public
apology, and paid costs and damages.

The crux of this sordid and sorry saga lies firmly in the existing
English libel law which is very narrow and restrictive compared to its
counterpart in the Untied States with a long history and precedent of
“good faith” protected by the First Amendment, absent in English
jurisprudence. In effect, CUP was not prepared to embark on a long and
very expensive litigation it could not possibly win under English
libel law in the English High Court, known to journalists as the “Club
Med for Libel Tourists.” Laurence Harris of Kendall Freeman was quite
candid. “Our client [Shaykh] Mahfouz chose to complain to Cambridge
University Press about the book because the book was published in this
jurisdiction by them” where he had previously threatened to “sue some
36 U.S. and U.K. publishers and authors” and in which Shaykh Mahfouz
had previously won three suits for the same charges of his alleged
financing of terrorism. Even Justice Eady’s pious pronouncements about
“the importance of freedom of speech” were of little relevance before
the weight, or lack thereof, in English libel law he rigorously

This was the first time that Shaykh Mahfouz had brought suit only
against the publisher that did not include the authors, for “our
client [Shaykh Mahfouz] took the view that they [CUP] were likely to
deal with his complaint sensibly and quickly, which they did,” rather
than include the authors who would not. As American authors residing
in the U.S., we were “out of jurisdiction” and under the protection of
the U.S. Courts, specifically the unanimous ruling by the Second U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2007 that Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld could
challenge in a U.S. Court the suit previously won against her by
Shaykh Mahfouz in Justice Eady’s High Court in London thereby
establishing a defining precedent in U.S. jurisprudence. Dr. Ehrenfeld
is the director of the American Center for Democracy in New York whose
book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed—and How to Stop It,
published by Bonus Books of Chicago in 2003, describes in greater
detail than Alms for Jihad how Shaykh Mahfouz helped finance al-
Qa’ida, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations. Although her book
was not sold in Britain, Shaykh Mahfouz secured British jurisdiction
by demonstrating that Funding Evil could be purchased or read on the
Internet by British citizens. When she refused to defend the case in
the London High Court, Justice Eady declared for the plaintive and
ordered Dr. Ehrenfeld to pay $225,000 damages. She then chose to
confront the Shaykh and seek redress in the U.S. Court system.

Millard Burr and I had adamantly refused to be a party to the
humiliating capitulation by CUP and were not about to renounce what we
had written. Alms for Jihad had been meticulously researched, our
interpretations judicious, our conclusions made in good faith on the
available evidence. It is a very detailed analysis of the global reach
of Islamic, mostly Saudi, charities to support the spread of
fundamental Islam and the Islamist state by any means necessary. When
writing Alms for Jihad we identified specific persons, methods, money,
how it was laundered, and for what purpose substantiated by over 1,000
references. I had previously warned the editor at CUP, Marigold
Acland, that some of this material could prove contentious, and in
March 2005 legal advisers for CUP spent a month vetting the book
before going into production and finally its publication in March
2006. We were careful when writing Alms for Jihad not to state
explicitly that Shaykh Mahfouz was funding terrorism but the
overwhelming real and circumstantial evidence presented implicitly
could lead the reader to no other conclusion. Court records in the
case of U.S. vs. Enaam Arnaout, Director of the Benevolent
International Foundation and close associate of Usama bin Ladin,
accepted as evidence the “Golden Chain” which the British High Court
later refused as evidentiary. The Mawafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation
of Shaykh Mahfouz and its principal donor was declared by the U.S.
Treasury “an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi
businessmen” one of whom was the designated terrorist, Yassin al-Qadi
who “transferred millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden through
charities and trusts like the Muwafaq Foundation.” It appears very
strange that the founder of his personal charity and its major donor
had no idea where or whom or for what purpose his generosity was being

Although the reaction to the settlement by CUP has been regarded by
some, like Professor Deborah Lipstadt at Emory University, as a
“frightening development” whereby the Saudis “systematically, case by
case, book by book” are shutting down public discourse on terrorism
and intimidating publishers from accepting manuscripts critical of the
Saudis, there still remains the free exchange of ideas, opinions, and
written text in the world of the Internet protected by the First
Amendment. Ironically, the eleven points of the Mahfouz suit against
CUP amount to little more than a large footnote, a trivial fraction of
the wealth of information in Alms for Jihad that cannot be found
elsewhere. The Shaykh can burn the books in Britain, but he cannot
prevent the recovery of the copyright by the authors nor their search
for a U. S. publisher to reprint a new edition of Alms for Jihad for
those who have been seeking a copy in the global market place.




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