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Why CUP acted responsibly

Certain commentators in the USA have accused Cambridge University Press of cowardice for its decision to withdraw from future sale the remaining stock of its book Alms for Jihad.  No-one has “bullied Cambridge University Press into making (that) decision”. It was taken on the basis of legal advice and consultation with the book’s authors.

Alms for Jihad was published in April 2006 and had already sold most of its copies by the time we received, in March 2007, notice from his lawyers that the book contained statements defamatory of Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz. This was the first time that anyone had brought it to our attention.

Legal advice then revealed that the very same charges of defamation against other authors and publishers had been upheld by judges in the English High Court on at least two previous occasions. Our book cited sources whose falsity had been established to the satisfaction of the English courts. In one ruling Mr Justice Eady stated that “The court is naturally conscious of the importance of freedom of speech and of the need to ensure as far as possible that its judicial processes are not abused by anyone who may seek to vindicate himself on a false basis and thus mislead the public.”… but still went on to find the statements against bin Mahfouz defamatory. Within the English jurisdiction and under English libel laws we simply did not have a defensible case.

Cambridge University Press is not in business to do ideological battle but to act responsibly as a publisher of scholarly material. It would not be a responsible use of our resources, nor in the interests of any of our scholarly authors, to attempt to defend a legal action in circumstances such as the above. Our decision to withdraw the book may indeed have been “un-American” in Jeffrey A Stern’s sense of that term, but we are a global publisher with a duty to observe the laws of many different countries. Stern may have issues with English libel law, but he should not criticise a publisher for upholding its responsibility to stay within that law.

Some American public opinion holds that Sheikh bin Mahfouz is “guilty of funding terrorism”, but Cambridge University Press cannot act on the basis of popular opinion, however widely held. Evidence must be found. And the evidence produced by the authors of Alms for Jihad, repeated from earlier sources, has not stood up to the requisite tests. Even if we had taken our own case to judgement, an adverse outcome would have done nothing to vindicate the work of our authors, who would then have been even more publicly characterised as having failed the tests required by English libel law.      

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Shame on CUP for cowardice

It is not for CUP to break the law in this case.

Cambridge University Press did not just agree to destroy all remaining copies, it also has acted to urge libraries all over the world to remove their copies form the shelves. In addition, the books authors state that they have offered their notes in support of the book's contentions, but the CUP's attorneys did not even look at them before its capitulation to bin Mahfouz. CUP has also erased any mention whatsoever of the book from its website. Sounds quite cowardly, if you ask me.

I found the implication that scholarly material is irrelevant to ideological battle to be interesting and revealing. Most of the rest of the world does not share our quirky attitude toward the right to expression. We are use to being in the minority, with others operating under 'D' letters, Sharia Law, State controlled media, and such regulation.

Isn't Cambridge University Press planning to publish a laudatory biography of Sheikh ibn Mahfouz soon?

What Mr Kevin Taylor tells us is a fairy tale. True, a sophisticated one.

The truth is less flattering. Cambridge University Press is heavily engaded in Saudi Arabia where it depends first of all on the giant Obeikan Group (printing, publishing, packaging (hard and flexible), bookselling etc. across the Gulf Region and abroad). As they put it openly on their website CUP "is engaged in a strategic Joint Venture with the Obeikan Group of Saudi Arabia" and through it depends on a chain of bookstores across the kingdom: Jarir Bookstore, Tihama Publications, Elmia Bookstores and the biggest of them all - Obeikan Bookshop existing since 1991 and operating more than 100 000 titles. It means its new strategic allies can pressure Cambridge University Press at any time to enforce decisions the Saudis want to be made. In the case of "Alms for Jihad" Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz - who as former head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia has very close business, if not family, ties to the Obeikan Group - must have told CUP that unless they gave in totally and apologized humbly they would face most serious troubles on the Saudi (and Saudi-influenced) market. He would ruin them. This might explain the strange provisions of the settlement and other queer things involved , e.g. unwillingness to tell openly how much CUP had to pay to the billionaire.

Does anyone except the blindest optimist really suppose this controversy would even have arisen if the world did not see documented, verifiable and incontrovertible evidence each and every day of the violent effects of the propogation of Islam? Or is he or she to suppose that this publisher would have taken similar action in response to the legal proceedings that might be lodged in any similar situation by any other religious group? Doubtless not. By such actions, therefore, is "freedom of speech" shown to be a quaint and moribund notion, unsuited to today's "tolerant" political climate. "Fear is the mind-killer."

There is one remarkable aspect in the CUP vs Mahfouz case. The Sheikh's lawyer was solicitor Laurence Harris from the big "Kendall Freeman" company (19 partners and over 60 lawyers) in London. He is the firm's Managing Partner.

Now he himself was educated at Cambridge College of Law! Imagine - the alumnus of Cambridge sues his own school for denigrating his Saudi client and of course he wins! The Cambridge education paid off, didn't it? He's quite young (42 years old) and many teachers at Cambridge College of Law must still remember him. Perhaps I am old-fashioned but if I were a laywer I could never sue my own school, not even one of its distant departments. But Laurence Harris had no scruples at all. His client must have appreciated it and was generous.

I think that the CUP acted justly. Is it cowardice to do something right ? Why should something be printed that is not firmly backed by solid concrete evidence ?
In my opinion the CUP averted a possibly devastating battle by acting wisely and logically. It would would be wonderful if all publishers follows their lead.

"Some American public opinion holds that Sheikh bin Mahfouz is

Shame on CUP for cowardice

It is not for CUP to break the law in this case.

Cambridge University Press did not just agree to destroy all remaining copies, it also has acted to urge libraries all over the world to remove their copies form the shelves. In addition, the books authors state that they have offered their notes in support of the book's contentions, but the CUP's attorneys did not even look at them before its capitulation to bin Mahfouz. CUP has also erased any mention whatsoever of the book from its website. Sounds quite cowardly, if you ask me.

I found the implication that scholarly material is irrelevant to ideological battle to be interesting and revealing. Most of the rest of the world does not share our quirky attitude toward the right to expression. We are use to being in the minority, with others operating under 'D' letters, Sharia Law, State controlled media, and such regulation.

Isn't Cambridge University Press planning to publish a laudatory biography of Sheikh ibn Mahfouz soon?

What Mr Kevin Taylor tells us is a fairy tale. True, a sophisticated one.

The truth is less flattering. Cambridge University Press is heavily engaded in Saudi Arabia where it depends first of all on the giant Obeikan Group (printing, publishing, packaging (hard and flexible), bookselling etc. across the Gulf Region and abroad). As they put it openly on their website CUP "is engaged in a strategic Joint Venture with the Obeikan Group of Saudi Arabia" and through it depends on a chain of bookstores across the kingdom: Jarir Bookstore, Tihama Publications, Elmia Bookstores and the biggest of them all - Obeikan Bookshop existing since 1991 and operating more than 100 000 titles. It means its new strategic allies can pressure Cambridge University Press at any time to enforce decisions the Saudis want to be made. In the case of "Alms for Jihad" Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz - who as former head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia has very close business, if not family, ties to the Obeikan Group - must have told CUP that unless they gave in totally and apologized humbly they would face most serious troubles on the Saudi (and Saudi-influenced) market. He would ruin them. This might explain the strange provisions of the settlement and other queer things involved , e.g. unwillingness to tell openly how much CUP had to pay to the billionaire.

Does anyone except the blindest optimist really suppose this controversy would even have arisen if the world did not see documented, verifiable and incontrovertible evidence each and every day of the violent effects of the propogation of Islam? Or is he or she to suppose that this publisher would have taken similar action in response to the legal proceedings that might be lodged in any similar situation by any other religious group? Doubtless not. By such actions, therefore, is "freedom of speech" shown to be a quaint and moribund notion, unsuited to today's "tolerant" political climate. "Fear is the mind-killer."

There is one remarkable aspect in the CUP vs Mahfouz case. The Sheikh's lawyer was solicitor Laurence Harris from the big "Kendall Freeman" company (19 partners and over 60 lawyers) in London. He is the firm's Managing Partner.

Now he himself was educated at Cambridge College of Law! Imagine - the alumnus of Cambridge sues his own school for denigrating his Saudi client and of course he wins! The Cambridge education paid off, didn't it? He's quite young (42 years old) and many teachers at Cambridge College of Law must still remember him. Perhaps I am old-fashioned but if I were a laywer I could never sue my own school, not even one of its distant departments. But Laurence Harris had no scruples at all. His client must have appreciated it and was generous.

I think that the CUP acted justly. Is it cowardice to do something right ? Why should something be printed that is not firmly backed by solid concrete evidence ?
In my opinion the CUP averted a possibly devastating battle by acting wisely and logically. It would would be wonderful if all publishers follows their lead.

"Some American public opinion holds that Sheikh bin Mahfouz is