Death by a thousand lawsuits

Posted: Feb 02, 2006 12:05 AM

Though many Islamic groups across the United States have been closed since 9/11 for ties to terrorism, some Muslim organizations being accused of having similar such connections have turned for help to a branch of the government, specifically the courts.  In most instances, though, the point does not seem to be winning or clearing one’s own name, but rather to do what the government cannot: stifle criticism.

The latest plaintiff in the campaign of intimidation-by-lawsuit is the Islamic Society of Boston, which boasts clear, identifiable relationships with overt supporters of terrorism, from its founder to a former board member to the previous affiliations of its current president. 

Despite having little chance of winning, ISB’s suit against 16 defendants, including the local Fox-TV affiliate and the Boston Herald, could cause them serious headaces—and cost each of them a mint in the process.

Here’s the background.  In 2002, ISB cut a sweetheart deal with the city of Boston, buying nearly 2 acres of prime real estate at the fire-sale price of $175,000, less than half of the $400,000 at which the relevant city agency had it appraised.  But according to the Boston Herald, “The Islamic Society of Boston’s own newsletter said the land is worth $2 million.”

Various local media outlets began looking into ISB once the deal was announced, and what they found was shocking—especially since ISB, like so many others, had positioned itself as decidedly moderate.

Among the most damning evidence to emerge were the ISB’s connections to two high-profile radical Muslims, and the fact that the mosque’s longtime leader was a co-founder and former vice-president of a virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic organization that apparently raised truckloads of cash to support Islamic terrorism.

The Boston mosque was co-founded by, among others, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who was sentenced to 23 years in 2004 after he pleaded guilty to assisting in a plot to assassinate the leader of Saudi Arabia.  But even if ISB can be taken at face value that Alamoudi had no involvement for the past “15 or 20 years,” it seems clear that a radical cleric from Qatar, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, did.  Famous because of his fiery fatwas, Qaradawi hardly represents the moderate brand of Islam to which ISB supposedly adheres.

Qaradawi, whose al-Jazeera television show has become a phenomenon in the Muslim world, is an active cheerleader for Palestinian suicide bombers, has issued religious edicts encouraging the mass murder of Americans in Iraq, and has called for the murder of all apostates (those who convert away from Islam) and homosexuals. 

ISB understandably tried to distance itself from Qaradawi once his radicalism became known, telling the Herald that the cleric “never played any role in the ISB.”  The mosque chalked up the appearance of Qaradawi’s name on its tax filings from 1998-2000 as a member of the board of directors as “an administrative oversight.”  Yet Qaradawi wasn’t just listed as a board member on tax forms; he was also listed as such on ISB’s web site through at least March 2001.

Far more troubling, though, is that ISB’s leader for more than a decade was earlier deeply involved in Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA).  Osama Kandil was one of nine co-founders of MAYA—along with Osama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah—and then served as its vice-president for several years. 

At a mid-1990’s MAYA conference, the keynote speaker, the head of “the Hamas military wing,” told the crowd, “Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all! Exterminate them!” according to an FBI memo written shortly after 9/11.  The crowd responded enthusiastically, as more than $200,000 was raised at the event for the terrorist organization, according to the memo.

When asked by the Herald about MAYA, Kandil defended it as moderate.

With so much incontrovertible evidence demonstrating that ISB is anything but moderate, its lawsuit seems like a surefire loser—but only in the sense of winning a final verdict.  Litigation is costly, even defending against a case as flimsy as ISB’s.

Most of the 16 defendants have filed briefs urging the court to dismiss ISB’s nuisance suit.  Unfortunately for them, the process could drag on for many more months—or longer. 

But if the judge allows the ISB to secure victory by running up the legal tabs of the defendants—thus potentially silencing other would-be critics—the real fear for all of us must be: how many other radicals will learn the lesson and head to court?

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