Islamist Groups Threaten Free Speech Ruling in Joe Kaufman Case
September 3, 2009
Islamist Groups Threaten Free Speech Ruling By: Jamie Glazov
FP: Joe Kaufman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
A little while ago, there was a great victory for you, for the War on Terror and for freedom of speech. The Texas Court of Appeals dismissed the case that was brought against you.
But now it appears that the saga continues. The Muslim groups are pushing forward and asking the Texas Supreme Court to review the case.
What exactly is going on? Give us an update.
Kaufman: Since my legal victory in the State of Texas Court of Appeals, where the appellate agreed that I was a journalist and ruled unanimously that the case brought against me had no merit to continue, the other side has attempted to fight the ruling. First, they tried to get the appellate to reconsider its decision, but they lost that too, as the decision was upheld. Now, they are making a last gasp effort to get the Texas Supreme Court to review the matter.
FP: For some of our readers that might not know, tell us what this case is about.
Kaufman: In October 2007, I traveled to Texas to hold a demonstration against the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), outside an event the group was sponsoring at Six Flags Over Texas. I had discovered proof that ICNA was connected to the financing of Hamas overseas – an illegal act – and I wanted to expose this information to the public. During the protest, I was served with a lawsuit and a restraining order filed by seven Dallas-area Islamist groups. The groups included the Muslim American Society (MAS) and three Islamic centers owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). They claimed that I had libeled them in an article I had written about ICNA's event prior to arriving in Texas. The article did not mention one of the seven groups.
FP: What freedoms does this lawsuit threaten?
Kaufman: The first Constitutional right that the groups attempted to rob me of was my right to Freedom of Assembly. As I mentioned, during the demonstration I was served with a restraining order. The groups obtained it two days prior to the protest taking place. The groups were of the belief that this order would stop me from being able to conduct a protest. As stated in a press release put out by the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), the group financing the case against me, "After he was served, Mr. Kaufman ignored the Restraining Order and held a sign that said ‘SIX FLAGS OVER TERRORISTS,' and other defamatory signs." These groups actually thought that what I was doing, exercising my right as an American to assemble and protest, was illegal.
The second right that the groups attempted to take from me was my right to Freedom of Speech. As I have contended all along, the case brought against me was entirely frivolous. The groups were suing me for an article I had written which didn't even mention them. They filed a restraining order against me, when I had never threatened them in any way, which they admitted under oath on the stand. The only reason why this case was brought against me was because they don't like what I say about groups such as ICNA or MAS. They don't want me discussing the groups' terrorism ties, because they know that my research and writings could assist in getting the groups shut down. Their quest is to silence me – to harm me financially and silence me.
As one of the leaders of MAS, Mahdi Bray, recently stated on his radio show [with MLFA head Khalil Meek by his side], "In order to deal with these haters, these bashers, these Islamophobes, we've got to be willing to spend our money in a court of law. And not necessarily because we don't look for money, but we need to be able to say we need to spend our money and make you spend your money, and you're gonna stop doing this to us. I mean, I think we need to set the example. I think the situation with Joe Kaufman was an excellent example…"
The third Constitutional right that the groups tried to take from me was my right to Freedom of Press. As stated by the appellate court, I am a journalist. That's what I do. That's my life. Not only did these groups seek to obtain an injunction from the court to "remove" from my "web blog" material that I had previously written – again material that didn't even mention them – but they sought as well to have me restrained from publishing statements in the future that they deemed "annoying" to them. The "web blog" that the groups reference is actually FrontPage Magazine, which is of course not run by me, but by David Horowitz. Yet, according to the Plaintiffs, I "founded" FrontPage.
FP: So what might happen now? What are the prospects with the Supreme Court being asked to review the case?
Kaufman: Considering that this is a case of "first impression," meaning an interpretation of law that has not yet been heard by a given court, the Texas Supreme Court might want to visit it. However, the appellate court was very thorough in what it wrote concerning my case. Little, if anything, was left out of its decision. I'm confident that that will at least be considered.
FP: What is ultimately at stake with this case?
Kaufman: All of the freedoms that we cherish are at stake. As Mahdi Bray said, I was used as an example – an example to be duplicated many times in the future. While a court ruled in my favor, the plaintiffs' success came in the form of extensive legal bills and time. If there is one individual out there who is fearful about speaking out against those who support terror, because of what I had to personally endure, then the other side has won. We must fight this. We cannot give in to fear. We cannot allow the enemy to destroy what so many of our countrymen died to protect.
FP: Tell us a bit about who has given you help and support.
Kaufman: Many exceptional people helped me both legally and financially, in order for me to keep the rights that I enjoy as an American. My main legal team included: Bill Becker of the Becker Law Firm; Manny Klausner of the Individual Rights Foundation; Brandon Bolling of Cummings, McClorey, Davis, & Acho PLC; Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center; and my Texas attorneys Tom Brandon and Tom Harkins of Whitaker, Chalk, Swindle & Sawyer, LLP.
My support team included: David Horowitz of the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Daniel Pipes and Brooke Goldstein of the Middle East Forum; David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence; Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism; and Peter Feaman, Tom Trento and Ann Fishman of the Florida Security Council.
I'm not the type of person that likes to rely on others, but without all of these individuals I don't know what I would have done.
FP: What can the average citizen do to help you?
Kaufman: Unfortunately, I still have legal bills that need to be paid, and depending on the Texas Supreme Court decision, they could only get higher. I would appreciate it if those who are reading about my ordeal would donate to my case. Both the Horowitz Freedom Center and the Middle East Forum's Legal Project have legal funds set up for this purpose. Please get in touch with one of them, if you wish to help me and this cause.
And remember, it's not just about me. It's not just me whose freedoms are on the line. It's all of ours.
FP: How are you feeling yourself? What are your thoughts and how are you? It's been stressful on you no doubt?
Kaufman: I have been doing what I do every day for the past eight years. In that time, I have always been conscious of the fact that someday the groups I have devoted my life to shutting down might try to pull some stunt in order to stop me. So mentally, I've been ready for this.
That said, it's not fun getting sued, especially when considering the money it takes to fight it. As well, it's not pleasant to know that you have a restraining order hanging over your head, especially when you know that you have never threatened anyone in your life. And most importantly, it's not good to know that the bad guys could file a bogus lawsuit and restraining order and actually have it considered by a knowledgeable judge in a court of law.
Whatever the case, I did not get involved in this field thinking that it was going to be an easy ride. I got into it, because I took the terrorist attacks against my country, the United States of America, personally, and I'm not about to let seven Dallas-area extremist groups get to me enough to quit. I am in it till the end, and I'm extremely proud of what I do and what I have accomplished.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz's Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at [email protected]. http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=36083