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Cambridge University Press Agrees to Pulp Book on Terrorist Financing

A press release from the website of UK law firm Kendall Freeman:

…Saudi businessman Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz has accepted a comprehensive apology together with substantial damages from well known publishers Cambridge University Press in settlement of a libel action following publication of a 2006 book Alms for Jihad, it was announced in the High Court in London today.

Sheikh Khalid, for many years Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank, commenced libel proceedings against the Cambridge University Press following the publication of Alms for Jihad, which made a series of allegations including that Sheikh Khalid and his family had supported Osama Bin Laden and funded terrorist activities. In today’s hearing at the High Court before Mr Justice Eady, the company accepted that there was no truth whatsoever in any of these allegations…Cambridge University Press is taking the almost unprecedented step of pulping all unsold copies of the Book and writing to over 200 libraries worldwide which carry the book telling them of the settlement and asking them to withdraw the book from their shelves. The company will be publishing a detailed apology on its website, and paying substantial damages as well as making a contribution to Sheikh Khalid’s legal costs…

Bin Mahfouz has won several cases along these lines recently; US conservative author Rachel Ehrenfeld was sued in the UK, and her publisher Bonus Books has produced a press release of its own denouncing the CUP’s capitulation:

…In a similar attempt to halt the distribution of such claims, Bin Mahfouz also filed a libel action in British courts against Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, after Bonus Books published her 2003 book FUNDING EVIL: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy, also alleged Bin Mahfouz of backing organizations with alleged ties to terrorism, a charge that Mahfouz, formerly president of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, continues to deny. But Ehrenfeld stands behind her research, and publisher Stern stands by his author.

“I find it utterly appalling that any publisher—let alone one with the history and perceived credibility of Cambridge University Press—would allow themselves to be bullied into making such a decision,” Stern said.

Ehrenfeld’s right-wing supporters – such one quoted at Hot Air – claim that progressives have ignored the case because she takes a tough line against jihadists; however, bin Mahfouz’s previous targets in the UK include the left-wing Pluto Press, which agreed to drop Michael Griffin’s Reaping the Whirlwind. UK and Swiss courts were also recently used by bin Mahfouz against the French authors of a book entitled The Forbidden Truth. The Arab News reported the reaction of Saudi businessmen:

“Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Saudi and Muslim businessmen have been under intense attack from upstart Western writers who, passing themselves off as international terrorism financing experts, have been dishing out all kinds of nonsense in the name of journalism. This verdict will serve as a kind of deterrent to would-be mudslingers and character-assassins,” said an ecstatic Jeddah-based businessman. “We can fight back and we should.”

Some businessmen interviewed yesterday by Arab News said Saudis usually avoid going to court for fear of inviting negative publicity — even when grave allegations are leveled against them. The perception is that court proceedings can be lengthy and invite the scrutiny of the media, which often is prone to mudslinging. In such cases truth becomes the first casualty.

In 2004, Random House subsidiary Secker and Warburg decided to act pre-emptively and declined to publish a UK edition of Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud.

The CUP’s decision is not the first time that a UK academic press has decided to withdraw a book from circulation as a result of legal threats. Ten years ago the SPCK published a book of sociological essays entitled Harmful Religion: Studies in Religious Abuse. One of the groups included in the book was an Amish-like Christian community called the Bruderhof, which threatened to sue – the SPCK agreed to sell all copies of the book to them, and not to reprint it. That story is told here.

5 Responses

  1. […] been published about his recent move against the Cambridge University Press (a subject I blogged here), despite considerable media interest in the USA. According to the Eye (page 2): Two weeks ago the […]

  2. […] Saudi billionaire Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz. As has been widely reported (and blogged by me here and here), thanks to the Sheik’s libel threats, both the left-wing Pluto Press and the Cambridge […]

  3. […] Publish Tom Cruise/Scientology Book in Australia « Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion on Cambridge University Press Agrees to Pulp Book on Terrorist FinancingPan Macmillan Afraid to Publish Tom Cruise/Scientology Book in Australia « Bartholomew’s […]

  4. […] Posted on January 16, 2008 by Richard Bartholomew Looks as though you don’t have to be a Saudi billionaire to hinder the distribution of a critical book. From the Sydney Morning Herald: Pan Macmillan will […]

  5. […] I blogged here, and as is well-known, this escalated into a Saudi billionaire using the British courts to pursue […]

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