You don’t have to burn books if you can have them “pulped”

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The book pictured above, Alms for Jihad, got a number of very good reviews from mainstream publications and from readers. But you can’t find it in any bookstore. A copy sold on eBay for $135 recently, but no others are available. It has been withdrawn by its publisher, Cambridge University Press, and “pulped“, amid profuse apologies to those named in the book. Why? Mark Steyn explains:

Who is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz? Well, he’s a very wealthy and influential Saudi. Big deal, you say. Is there any other kind? Yes, but even by the standards of very wealthy and influential Saudis, this guy is plugged in: He was the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government. He has a swanky pad in London and an Irish passport and multiple U.S. business connections, including to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

I’m not saying the 9/11 Commission is a Saudi shell operation, merely making the observation that, whenever you come across a big-shot Saudi, it’s considerably less than six degrees of separation between him and the most respectable pillars of the American establishment.

As to whether allegations about support for terrorism by the sheikh and his “family, businesses and charities” are “entirely and manifestly false,” the Cambridge University Press is going way further than the United States or most foreign governments would. Of his bank’s funding of terrorism, Sheikh Mahfouz’s lawyer has said: “Like upper management at any other major banking institution, Khalid Bin Mahfouz was not, of course, aware of every wire transfer moving through the bank. Had he known of any transfers that were going to fund al-Qaida or terrorism, he would not have permitted them.” Sounds reasonable enough. Except that in this instance the Mahfouz bank was wiring money to the principal Mahfouz charity, the Muwafaq (or “Blessed Relief”) Foundation, which in turn transferred them to Osama bin Laden.

In October 2001, the Treasury Department named Muwafaq as “an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen” and its chairman as a “specially designated global terrorist.” As the Treasury concluded, “Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief.”

Indeed, this “charity” seems to have no other purpose than to fund jihad. It seeds Islamism wherever it operates. In Chechnya, it helped transform a reasonably conventional nationalist struggle into an outpost of the jihad. In the Balkans, it played a key role in replacing a traditionally moderate Islam with a form of Mitteleuropean Wahhabism. Pick a Muwafaq branch office almost anywhere on the planet and you get an interesting glimpse of the typical Saudi charity worker. The former head of its mission in Zagreb, Croatia, for example, is a guy called Ayadi Chafiq bin Muhammad. Well, he’s called that most of the time. But he has at least four aliases and residences in at least three nations (Germany, Austria and Belgium). He was named as a bin Laden financier by the U.S. government and disappeared from the United Kingdom shortly after 9/11.

So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors -– in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment. He may be a wronged man, but his use of what the British call “libel chill” is designed not to vindicate his good name but to shut down the discussion, which is why Cambridge University Press made no serious attempt to mount a defense. He’s one of the richest men on the planet, and they’re an academic publisher with very small profit margins. But, even if you’ve got a bestseller, your pockets are unlikely to be deep enough: “House Of Saud, House Of Bush” did boffo biz with the anti-Bush crowd in America, but there’s no British edition – because Sheikh Mahfouz had indicated he was prepared to spend what it takes to challenge it in court, and Random House decided it wasn’t worth it.

We’ve gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can’t open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world.

On most days, we do not entirely share Mr. Steyn’s pessimism about how our current troubles will ultimately be resolved. But he certainly has the cowardice of the elites of the West pegged pretty well. More reading on this disturbing subject is available through Powerline and NRO.

One Response to “You don’t have to burn books if you can have them “pulped””

  1. gs Says:

    I find Steyn informative although iirc occasionally, unable to resist taking an open shot like ‘one-way multiculturalism’, he’s gone overboard to the point of unfairness. In this case, however, he may have been too easy on Cambridge University Press: my impression of them was already negative.

    Hopefully the suppressed authors will be able to disseminate their material, e.g. over the Internet. It would be doubly outrageous if the publishers destroyed the book and claimed rights to the research, not just the manuscript. In fact, I’m not sure the publishers should retain US rights to the manuscript.

    Per Jack’s Hotair link, Rachel Ehrenfeld, the author of a similar book, is fighting back and won an important judgment in American courts (see the entire site, not just the linked article). But consider:

    Since the 1965 Uniform Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act allows the enforcement of foreign monitory judgments in the U.S., bin Mahfouz intends to act. One of his agents appeared late one evening at my door, advising me to “You had better respond. Sheikh bin Mahfouz is a very important person and you ought to take very good care of yourself.”

    What would the Andrew Jackson or Theodore Roosevelt do if agents of a foreign despotism came at night to an American’s home and threatened her?

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