(Published in the Chapel Hill Herald-Sun on Tuesday, August 28, 2007)

Getting the word out on ‘libel tourism’

By Lauren Knapp-Resnik
Guest columnist


If you ever want to buy or read the book, Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World written by two American authors, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, you can’t.  All copies have been yanked from shelves in England and now America like Big Brother on speed. 


It was published by Cambridge University Press in England .  Since then this publisher has been sued for libel by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, one of the book’s subjects accused of behind terrorist financing.  Consequently, per his request all unsold books are being pulped in the UK and American libraries have been summoned to abolish all copies. 


It’s a personal quest of mine to learn about terrorist organizations, their history, and most importantly, their lethality to the world.  It is what I call being “consciously American”, or just vigilant. 


The adage, “Know Thy Enemy” is an obvious rule to live by in our current climate.  I want to know, with as much as a US citizen can and should know, the five “W’s about the threats - far from innocuous - that we face.  If knowledge is power, then knowledge that is concealed is turbo-charged.  But our First Amendment rights are being stifled by… England ?  And Saudi Arabia ?  I want this book and I want my US right to buy this book. 


I have called all local bookstores in Raleigh , Chapel Hill and Cary , as well as gone online to all major bookstores, and the book is no longer carried by anyone.  Only one paperback copy is selling on Ebay, presently going for more than $500.    


Americans are outraged, and not just writers.  The implications here are astounding; basically sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz just bought off the First Amendment.  If you go to Amazon.com you can read some of the angry reviews about the inability to buy the book. Amazon has the audacity to advertise that you can download an electronic version of the book for $9.95.  When you do, all you receive is a one paragraph review of it! 


Here are titles of people’s reviews: “What First Amendment?”, “Why is this book unavailable?”, “Welcome to 21st Century Book Burning”, “Come on Amazon”, “So much for freedom of speech”, and “$10 for 557 words?  That’s not right.”   


In British courts, when one is suing for libel, the plaintiff doesn’t even have to prove that such libel was done with malice thanks to some rather antiquated libel laws there. If Brits aren’t flapping their lips like we do here you can understand why.  It’s also a reason some Saudis and alleged terrorists are suing like there’s no tomorrow throughout UK courts.


In trillion dollar lawsuits they are suing British and American authors, reporters, and publishing companies writing about known and proven terrorist financing.  That’s right, American writers in America being sued through courts in England for blowing the whistle on terrorists, for trying to educate Americans about the dangers.  This silencing ploy is called Libel Tourism. 


Makes you wonder, does money talk, or what?  And in that regard, terrorism and money are synonymous – without huge funding terrorists’ machinations would be stymied. Yet why aren’t more people standing up to these billionaires - muzzling bullies that threaten our freedoms?  Why aren’t we as Americans reminding the world of our hard won Constitution?


Of the over thirty authors and publishers Mahfouz has sued for libel in British courts, none have gone to trial.  All have settled out of court, including Cambridge University Press.  The exception is Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, American author of Funding Evil:  How Terrorism Is Financed – and How to Stop It, and her publisher who has stood behind her, Bonus Books. 


She has brazenly refused acknowledgement of the British court libel suit.  She filed suit in New York , the First Amendment backing her.  Recently the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor; her claim was found legitimate in US courts.  What she is fighting to uphold is not only freedom of speech but the assurance that foreign decision cannot predominate over United States word of the law, our Constitution.


We have to continue fighting for knowledge that makes us that much more aware of the enormity of the dangers we face worldwide - like a book on the complexity of covert terrorist financing.  That information of this caliber has been censored by the highest echelons of evil is a grave threat to our safety that cannot bear repetition.