Law & the Courts

The ‘Clock Boy’ Defamation Suit Was Tossed Out in a Victory for Free Speech

Ahmed Mohamed (right) with NASA official John M. Grunsfeld during a White House visit, October 2015. (Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
Those who note that there is an agenda to suppress speech critical of Islam in any way are called haters and Islamophobes.

Free speech won a victory in Texas on Tuesday when a judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit by Mohamed Mohamed, father of the “Clock Boy,” Ahmed Mohamed, against me, my employer — the Center for Security Policy — Fox News, Glenn Beck, and others including the mayor of Irving, Texas. The suit claimed that in the course of discussing Ahmed Mohamed’s bringing a device resembling a bomb to his school, we had defamed Ahmed and his family.

This was nonsense and the suit contained no actual evidence of defamation, which the judge affirmed, citing the Texas statute prohibiting Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Robert Muise, co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center, which represented us, said, “AFLC was formed in large measure to take on Islamists like CAIR who use and abuse the legal system with their cynical form of lawfare to undermine our constitutional liberties — notably free speech.”

It was unsurprising that this action was brought in Irving, Texas, where a group of local mosques had set up an Islamic tribunal offering mediation in civil disputes, such as divorce proceedings, within the Muslim community. Irving’s mayor, Beth Van Duyne, raised concerns about the tribunal, noting that its members were putting themselves forward as “attorneys” and “judges” despite not being licensed to practice in the state of Texas. She quite properly pointed out that we already have courts and laws in this country that apply equally to everyone. These mosques have been agitating against the mayor since then and took full advantage of the publicity around the Clock Boy incident to claim she had created an environment of Islamophobia.

I hold no animus against the Clock Boy himself and don’t believe he meant to cause an incident. But there were adults who used him as a pawn in their political games, and they should be ashamed of their actions. His father filed a lawsuit that contained piles of embarrassing information about his son and yet managed to detail no damages I, or anyone else, had actually caused them. Alia Salem, the Dallas executive director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, piled on, saying the incident was Islamophobic. “I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” she said.

That is absurd, and the simple fact is that the device Ahmed brought to school looks just like the timing device for an improvised bomb. I know this, because as an Army Special Forces Weapons NCO, I’ve built and exploded devices that looked just like it. The teachers and law-enforcement officials acted entirely properly to ensure that all students were safe and to find out why Ahmed brought it to school in the first place. His answers to simple questions about this were evasive and consequently they put safety procedures into play.

The lawsuit was designed to attack those who pointed out that Islamist groups were using this and similar campaigns to smear and silence their opponents. Those who note that there is an agenda to suppress speech critical of Islam in any way are called haters and Islamophobes. I find that accusation personally offensive when it’s directed my way, since I have done significant humanitarian work in Muslim countries building schools and immunizing children, etc. I am not anti-Muslim; I am anti-jihad.

Somehow pointing out hateful behavior makes me a hater? That doublethink would make Orwell weep.

There are plenty of peaceful Muslims whom I am happy to live side by side with. But there are a significant number, more than most care to admit, that do not share my tolerance. They believe that violence to support the cause of Islam is acceptable. That is not something any of us should tolerate. But somehow pointing out that hateful behavior makes me a hater? That doublethink would make Orwell weep.

The campaign to silence any recognition of the nature and name of an enemy who attacks innocents is a dangerous assault on free speech and common sense. It is not anti-Muslim to note that not all terrorists are Muslim, but an awful lot sure are. And while you can argue they don’t represent the true nature of Islam, there are hundreds of millions of people who disagree. That’s not my opinion — the liberal Pew Research Center polled Muslims worldwide and asked if suicide bombing was ever justified: 28 percent said often, sometimes, or rarely it was. This so stunned Pew they decided the “rarely” answers were a negative response and added them to the “never” column. No offense, Pew, but anyone who says it’s okay to conduct suicide bombings even if only “rarely” is a “yes.”

We didn’t start the fight against radical Islam, but we cannot ignore it. And we certainly cannot be forbidden to speak about it. Thankfully, this skirmish went the way of the U.S. Constitution and for a free and liberal society. But we must remain vigilant.

— Jim Hanson is executive vice president of the Center for Security Policy. He served in U.S. Army Special Forces and conducted counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, and other operations in more than a dozen countries. He is the author of Cut Down the Black Flag — A Plan to Defeat the Islamic State.

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