Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Joe Kaufman, the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the founder of CAIR Watch.
FP: Joe Kaufman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
The Texas Court of Appeals has just dismissed the case that was brought against you. Congratulations.
Tell us what this case was about.
Kaufman: Yes, it was an important victory, for both the War on Terrorism and Freedom of Speech. Thank you for allowing me this forum to speak about it.
Seven radical Muslim organizations, including the Muslim American Society (MAS) and three Islamic centers owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), filed a lawsuit against me for the simple reason that they wanted to punish me financially for writing about the terrorist ties of their friends. They claimed that I wrote an article which libeled them. Yet not one of the organizations suing me was mentioned in the piece. They filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I was a threat to them, but I have never threatened anyone. With regard to this case, it was only I that received a threat. The case against me was frivolous the moment it was filed, and thankfully that’s how the court found it, albeit a year and a half and nearly $100,000 later.
FP: How were our freedoms threatened by this lawsuit brought against you?
Kaufman: The fear is that, if one writes something that is disagreeable to Islamist groups – even if it’s based entirely on fact, which my article was – he/she will be sued. And in my case, I was sued for writing about groups more than half of which I had never heard of. The chilling effect is real, and the intimidation is real. Indeed, when my lawyers and I walked into the courtroom in October 2007 for a hearing on the case, the courthouse was packed with what seemed to be the entire Dallas-area Muslim community. I was rubbing shoulders with people that were eyeing me like they yearned for my death. No judge wanted to hear the case. When we finally found a judge, four hours later, the courtroom was standing room only with people that considered me an enemy. Who knows how many writers in the past have been frightened off by this intimidation? Here in America, we have our freedoms, but they can easily be abused, as can the legal system.
FP: How does this victory of yours help the cause of freedom?
Kaufman: The groups that were suing me were using this as a test case for future lawsuits like it. As Mahdi Bray, one of MAS’s leaders, recently stated on his radio show, “I think the situation with Joe Kaufman was an excellent example, but we need to set that example all around, you know, for all of them – all of those Islamophobes, the Spencers, the Pipes and the Emersons, and all that whole group. We need to make sure that we lawyer up, and if they cross the line, then we need to go head-on and take them into legal proceedings.” For Mr. Bray, we “cross the line” every time we write about his support for terrorists and his group’s ties to terrorists. Mr. Bray’s group didn’t initiate this lawsuit because it felt that I had defamed it in any way. It was only done to end my speech. Hopefully, my victory will lend credence to this and will ultimately do harm to future cases that attempt to manipulate the legal system, brought by Islamists and otherwise.
FP: Looking at this whole case, it is really crazy. How can organizations sue you and yet they were not even mentioned in your article? How could they file a restraining order against you if you didn't even make a threat? Can you counter-sue for this? Can you get them to pay your legal expenses? What can be done to get them back for this?
Kaufman: My case just proves that anyone can sue for anything and get away with it. It’s a flaw within the legal system that needs to be addressed. A judge signed off on the restraining order without a basis for doing so. The order oddly stated that I was not allowed to “annoy” the plaintiffs. Really, just my breathing annoys them. During the October 2007 hearing, we proved that I received a threat prior to my arrival in Texas. This, while the spokesman for the plaintiffs, Jamal Qaddura, a former board member of CAIR, admitted on the stand that neither I nor anyone in my group threatened him or anyone else in any way, shape or form. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the sitting judge from extending the restraining order, again without a rationale to do so.
Ever since this began, I have wanted to go on the offensive, meaning counter-suit, so that this would not go unanswered. My legal team – and it is an exceptional team – hasn’t found an avenue to do so, as of yet. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to listen to them. It is my understanding that we cannot recoup legal expenses, and there have been many, which of course was the goal of the plaintiffs. As MAS’s Mahdi Bray said on his show, “Folks, that’s got to be the next horizon for our community. 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.”
FP: Did you fear for your physical safety during this whole time in general and in the courtroom in particular?
Kaufman: I would be lying if I said that I am not concerned about my safety at events such as these. At a recent event that I was leading, an individual told someone I’m close to that, if he had a gun, he would put a bullet between my eyes. So speaking at a demonstration outside an ICNA event or walking through a courthouse that is filled wall-to-wall with those who would wish me harm, where no security or police are noticeable, is no game and I don’t consider it as one.
FP: Can you talk a bit about the terrorist ties of their friends?
Kaufman: With regard to my case, when I mention “their friends,” I am referring to the Islamic Circle of North America or ICNA. The reason why I flew to Texas in October 2007 was to hold a demonstration outside an ICNA-sponsored event (where I was served with the lawsuit and restraining order), in order to expose to the public ICNA’s connection to the financing of Hamas. I had personally discovered that, in August 2006, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), the “charitable” apparatus of the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), had sent a delegation to Damascus, Syria to give six million rupees or $99,000 to the head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal. At the time, ICNA – the American arm of JI – was the top donor to AKF.
FP: What do you think is the ultimate objective of groups such as the MAS?
Kaufman: MAS is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun. As such, it is here for one reason, and that is to turn America into an Islamic state.
FP: Who stood by your side during all of this? Were there those that should have and didn’t? What were some surprises to you personally during this whole ordeal?
Kaufman: The victory in this case is not just mine alone. There are so many individuals that I need to thank: David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes, who both provided me with legal assistance and funds to pay for this case; Brandon Bolling, my brilliant lead attorney, and Dick Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center. Bill Becker and Manny Klausner of the Horowitz Freedom Center; my Texas attorney Tom Brandon of Whitaker, Chalk, Swindle & Sawyer; Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism; Brooke Goldstein of the Middle East Forum; David Yerushalmi of SANE; and Tom Trento, Ann Fishman and Peter Feaman of the Florida Security Council. I cannot thank these individuals enough for what they did for me.
The only surprise with this lawsuit is that it ended when it did. It’s been going on for so long that I thought it would last well into my senior years. Thankfully that wasn’t the case!
FP: So how are you feeling personally now and what do you hope to do on the foundation of this victory?
Kaufman: I’m happy that it’s finally over. Too much time was taken away from my work over this. I’m sure the other side is happy about that! I’m glad that the restraining order was dismissed. It’s a horrible thing to have hanging over your head. It never should have been there to begin with.
You never want to be sued, but if there’s one thing I can thank the other side for it is that, with this case, they have given me more prominence in the counter-terrorism community. My goals have always been to educate the public and to shut down groups like ICNA and CAIR. So if this case moves me more towards my goals, I’ll be pleased. But victory or no victory, I’m going to continue to do what I do. As long as I’m alive and have my faculties intact, I will never stop.
FP: Joe Kaufman, thank you for joining FrontPage Interview.