Conservative Writer Keeps Islamic Group in Sights

By Nathaniel Popper

Published September 30, 2005, issue of September 30, 2005.

One of President Bush’s former speechwriters is unrepentant after settling a lawsuit with a Canadian Islamic organization that had sued him.

David Frum, the speechwriter who helped coin the term “axis of evil,” was sued in 2004 by the Canadian division of the Council on American-Islamic Relations over columns he wrote in Toronto’s National Post newspaper. In one of those pieces, Frum claimed the organization was “an apologist for that radical strain within Islam.”

CAIR-CAN settled its lawsuit against Frum and the National Post on September 9, according to Frum. As part of the settlement, the National Post printed an editor’s note on September 17, in which the paper and Frum “acknowledge that [CAIR-CAN’s chair] honestly holds her expressed opinions and through her work seeks to foster a fuller appreciation of Islam in Canadian society.”

CAIR-CAN sent out a press release announcing the editor’s note, and the note was trumpeted as a defeat for Frum on the weblog of Evan Gahr, a former Hudson Institute fellow who runs chimpstein.com.

But Frum told the Forward that the editor’s note was not a retraction or a correction of any of his earlier statements about the organization.

“CAIR wants to speak for the Canadian Islamic community,” Frum said. “They represent a very narrow and unattractive vision of that community’s future.”

Frum also said he was planning a column for the October 1 edition of the National Post — which happens to be the one-year anniversary of the first offending column on CAIR — in which he will raise new allegations against the organization.

In Frum’s October 1, 2004, column, he criticized CAIR-CAN and its chair, Sheema Khan, who had written columns for a competing newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Frum said that his book, “An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror,” had been misquoted by Khan. Frum went on to criticize CAIR and Khan more broadly, saying they had “extremist agendas.”

Frum and the National Post were sent a notice of libel a few weeks later. They then were sued by CAIR in a Canadian court in December for defamation and $300,000 in damages, according to Frum. Frum had accused CAIR of being “an unscrupulous, Islamist, extremist sympathetic group in Canada supporting terrorism,” according to the letter CAIR sent to Frum. CAIR previously was involved in suing at least five other parties for libel or defamation.

Even after receiving the notice of libel, Frum was unreserved in his disdain for CAIR, and went on to write an even longer column in the National Post, alleging ties between CAIR officers and organizations accused of terrorism. For example, he mentioned the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR, who was subsequently convicted in April for laundering money for Hamas officials.

In the course of the lawsuit, Frum and CAIR were forced by Canadian law to work with an arbitrator, according to Frum. Frum said that neither he nor the National Post were forced to pay any damages or lawyer fees, but added that he agreed to have the editor’s note published in the National Post.

The editor’s note stated that Frum and the National Post “acknowledge” that neither CAIR nor Khan “advocates or promotes terrorism.” Frum told the Forward that he never made any such assertion in his original columns.

“They had no ability to prove that anything was incorrect or invalid,” Frum said. “If you want to prevent people from publishing these facts, you can’t do it.”

When asked about the settlement, a spokeswoman for CAIR-CAN, Halima Mautbur, said the settlement and negotiations were confidential. “If Mr. Frum has gone and talked about it, that is his business,” Mautbur said, “but we’re not going to.”



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