Muslim lawyers are continuing their campaign against Danish newspapers over those Mohammed cartoons, even after one newspaper, Politiken, apologized to Muslims. Now, in England, they have filed a lawsuit on behalf of 95,000 direct descendants of Mohammad over the cartoons filed in Denmark.
While expressing support for the Danes in the case, Western governments have been trying to avoid another cartoon controversy by cracking down on free speech and free press through blasphemy, discrimination, and hate speech prosecutions (here).
The lawsuit was brought by Faisal Yamani. He is a Saudi lawyer — an ironic twist since the Kingdom does not allow even for a church to be built in the country or prosecutes people for exercising their religion in the open. Yet, they have no difficulty in bringing lawsuit in Western countries over perceived insults to their own religion under theories of free exercise and defamation. Saudi commentators routinely attacked other religions on television.
The descendants of the prophet Muhammad sent an intent to sue letter for a libel action in Britain over “blasphemous” cartoons of the founder of Islam.
England continues to be a magnet for defamation because of its libel laws, which I often criticize on this blog. Not only are the laws in England far too liberal in allowing reporters, authors, and citizens to be sued but the country imposes the “English Rule” where the loser pays the opposing party’s litigation costs (a prohibitive cost for many).
Even under the English system, one would expect a quick dismissal of this frivolous lawsuit. In the United States, it is extremely difficult to maintain a “group libel” case even when there is jurisdiction. One of the leading cases occurred in 1952 in a New York lawsuit. In Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, 13 FRD 311 (SDNY 1952), employees of that high-end store sued the author of a book titled “U.S.A. Confidential.” The book claimed that some of the models at the store and all of the saleswomen in the Dallas store were “call girls.” It further stated that most of the salesmen in the men’s department were “faggots.” The issue came down to the size of the group. With 382 saleswomen and models, the court found that the group was too large. However, with the 25 salesmen, the court found that an action could be maintained.
I continue to be mystified about the lower protections given to free speech and the free press by our English cousins. While I hope to see a dismissal, England will continue to be the jurisdiction of choice for people trying to use the courts to restrict free speech.
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