Islamists in the Courtroom


June 5, 2007

The decision by the Islamic Society of Boston to drop its lawsuit against 17 defendants, including counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson, gives reason to step back to consider radical Islam's legal ambitions.

The lawsuit came about because, soon after ground was broken in November 2002 for the ISB's $22 million Islamic center, the press and several nonprofits began asking questions about three main topics: why the ISB paid the city of Boston less than half the appraised value of the land it acquired; why a city of Boston employee, who is also an ISB board member, fund raised on the Boston taxpayers' tab for the center while traveling in the Middle East, and the ISB's connections to radical Islam.

Under this barrage of criticism, the ISB in May 2005 turned the tables on its critics with a lawsuit accusing them of defamation and conspiring to violate its civil rights through "a concerted, well-coordinated effort to deprive the Plaintiffs … of their basic rights of free association and the free exercise of religion."

For two long years, the lawsuit roiled Bostonians, and Jewish-Muslim relations in particular. The discovery process, while disclosing that the defendants had engaged in routine newsgathering and political disputation, and had nothing to hide, uncovered the plaintiff 's record of extremism and deception. Newly aware of its own vulnerabilities, the ISB on May 29 withdrew its lawsuit with its many complaints about "false statements," and it did so without getting a dime.

Why should this dispute matter to anyone beyond the litigants?

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