Cambridge Contacts U.S. Libraries over Alms for Jihad

Cambridge Contacts U.S. Libraries over Alms for Jihad

Cambridge University Press has requested some American libraries that own the 2006 book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins to remove it from their shelves. The August 10 Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the publisher agreed to pulp its remaining copies in response to a libel claim filed in Britain by Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker whom the book claims financed terrorism in Sudan and elsewhere during the 1990s.

In an August 15 letter to libraries, Intellectual Property Director Kevin Taylor said that CUP intends to “take every reasonable measure to ensure that readers who may consult this book in the future are made aware of its erroneous statements and to ensure that this defamation is not perpetuated.” However, in an apparent acknowledgment that U.S. libraries are outside the jurisdiction of British libel law, Taylor appended to the letter an errata sheet with 11 corrections that he specified should be “attached inside the front cover.”

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom noted in an August 14 post on its blog, “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.”

Taylor defended the action on The Bookseller website August 9, saying that Alms for Jihad “cited sources whose falsity had been established to the satisfaction of the English courts” and that CUP “is not in business to do ideological battle but to act responsibly as a publisher of scholarly material.”

The differences between U.S. and UK libel laws are illustrated by the case against Yale University Press, which was sued in California in April by the nonprofit group KinderUSA over allegedly erroneous statements in Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad by Matthew Levitt. Inside Higher Education reported August 16 that KinderUSA dropped the lawsuit without penalty to the publisher after Yale filed a motion alleging that the suit had no merit and was intended as harassment. The motion also noted that KinderUSA was reportedly under investigation by federal authorities over its fundraising activities for Islamic groups.

Posted August 17, 2007.