Thursday, August 16, 2007

ALA Statement on Alms for Jihad

ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom has issued a statement on the Alms for Jihad situation. The text of that statement was forwarded to the North Carolina Library Association listserv, and is reproduced below:

OIF is hearing from librarians who are wondering if they must comply with a request from British publisher Cambridge University Press to remove the book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World from the shelves of their libraries.

Alms for Jihad is the subject of a British libel lawsuit brought by Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz, who has filed several similar lawsuits to contest claims that the Saudi government has used Islamic charities to fund terrorism. Cambridge University Press chose to settle the suit rather than risk a large damage award at trial. Under the settlement, Cambridge University Press has agreed to pulp unsold copies and to ask libraries to return the book to the publisher or destroy the book. See "Cambridge U. Press Agrees to Destroy Book on Terrorism in Response to Libel Claim," (Long URL deleted-DD; click here for text of article in question).

Critics claim that Mahfouz is attempting to silence critics by using British libel law. Unlike U.S. libel law, which recognizes First Amendment freedoms, and requires plaintiffs to prove that the statements about them are false, British law places the burden of proof on defendants, who must demonstrate the truth of their claims. See "Saudi terror, British Censorship," at

Unless there is an order from a U.S. court, the British settlement is unenforceable in the United States and libraries are under no legal obligation to return or destroy the book. Libraries are considered to hold title to the individual copy or copies, and it is the library's property to do with as it pleases. Given the intense interest in the book, and the desire of readers to learn about the controversy first hand, we recommend that U.S. libraries keep the book available for their users.

I give OIF full credit for doing the right thing in this case


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