Lawfare is traditionally defined as the use of the law as a weapon of war, or the pursuit of strategic aims through aggressive legal maneuvers. Over the past ten years, we have seen a steady increase in lawfare tactics directly targeting the human rights of North American and European civilians in order to constrain the free flow of public information about radical Islam.
These small-scale lawfare efforts, often taking the form of predatory ‘defamation’ lawsuits, are being complemented by similar international efforts to outlaw blasphemy of Islam as a crime against humanity. Muslim states and organizations have successfully lobbied the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission and General Assembly to pass resolutions criminalizing the ‘blasphemy of Islam,’ calling for the prohibition of “the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas.” And while the Organization of the Islamic Conference was unsuccessful in its attempts to include an explicit clause criminalizing ‘defamation of religion’ [read: Islam] into the recent Durban II review conference outcome document, statements by OIC members clearly reflect that the OIC intends to continue to press for this change in international law.
Some European governments have already begun to yield to such pressures. Ireland, for example, is currently considering a bill that would add a new statutory crime of “blasphemous libel,” thereby placing freedom of speech second to religious sensibilities.
A question raised by these legal pressures: If Islamists can use EU legal systems extra-territorially to prosecute Europeans for offensive speech, can European citizens use their own legal systems extra-territorially against radical Muslims who engage in anti-Semitic or anti-Christian rhetoric?
Even if that idea is too innovative, surely some new response is needed to this abuse of free legal institutions to suppress freedom.
Recognizing the severity of the threat, and the necessity of responding to it, the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum, in conjunction with the Federalist Society, the Center for National Security Law, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, is hosting a conference entitled “Libel Lawfare: Silencing Criticism of Radical Islam,” on May 19th, 2009. The conference will consist of experts in the field and victims of lawfare, and will fully address these critical but dangerously underreported matters. Please register and join us by following the link here.