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Right-Wing Group Bankrolls Legal Defense for Dutch Islam Basher

The Middle East Forum’s Legal Project is increasingly the go-to funder for high-profile legal defenses in both the United States and abroad.
 
 
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Daniel Pipes, the head of the Middle East Forum.
Photo Credit: Lukeford.net/Wikimedia Commons

 
 
 
 

When the people sounding alarms over the ‘Islamist threat’ run into trouble with the law, the Middle East Forum’s Legal Project is increasingly the go-to funder tapped to mount defenses here and abroad.

In September,  Reuters revealed that the Legal Project paid legal bills for Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders. Wilders faced charges in the Netherlands for inciting hatred against Muslims in interviews, articles, and his short film, “Fitna,” which compared “Islamic ideology” to Nazism and Communism.

Wilders was acquitted on all charges in June 2011.

The Legal Project’s work on the case is part of its focus on what it sees as a pattern of unwarranted legal actions designed to silence those who speak against Islamic radicalism. On its website, the group says that it “protect[s] researchers and analysts who work on the topics of terrorism, terrorist funding, and radical Islam from lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech.”

The Middle East Forum — which runs the Legal Project –  “promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects the Constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats,” according to its website. “Domestically, the Forum combats lawful Islamism; protects the freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers; and works to improve Middle East studies in North America.”

The Middle East Forum is run by Daniel Pipes, who  — in a statement promoted in a 2008 Forum press release —  argued, “Quietly, lawfully, peacefully, Islamists do their work throughout the West to impose aspects of Islamic law, win special privileges for themselves, shut down criticism of Islam, create Muslim-only zones, and deprive women and non-Muslims of their full civil rights.”

In recent years, Pipes  has written a series of pieces  arguing that President Obama “was born and raised a Muslim and retained a Muslim identity until his late 20s.”

“[I]f Obama once was a Muslim, he is now what Islamic law calls a murtadd (apostate), an ex-Muslim converted to another religion who must be executed. Were he elected president of the United States, this status, clearly, would have large potential implications for his relationship with the Muslim world,” wrote Pipes in a January 2008 FrontPageMag column.

The two staff members listed on the Legal Project’s website have also been outspoken about controversies involving Islam.

Sam Nunberg, the Legal Project’s director, “played a significant role in opposing the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque both at the New York City Landmark Commission hearing and subsequent legal action,” according to the group’s  website.

Adam Turner, the project’s staff counsel, regularly contributes pieces to conservative publications, including Pajamas Media and FrontPageMag.

“[T]hese days, when Islamists threaten free speech about Islam-related topics with violence, legal action, boycotts, or complaints about ‘Islamophobia,’ many Westerners — especially the leftist European and American elite — actually join in the efforts,” wrote Turner in a  March 2012 piece for Pajamas Media.

In one recent case, the Legal Project “ coordinated and financed the defense” of a writer who was fighting a defamation lawsuit filed by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

NIAC, which is based in Washington, DC, advocates non-military strategies towards resolving tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and opposes “broad sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians,” according to  the organization’s website. In 2008, NIAC and its director, Trita Parsi, accused Seid Hassan Daioleslam of writing a series of defamatory articles suggesting that Parsi and NIAC were agents of the Iranian government.

On September 13, U.S. District Judge John Bates  dismissed the suit on the grounds that NIAC had failed to show evidence of actual malice but noted he wasn’t assessing the accuracy of Daioleslam’s claims.

 
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