Mark Steyn's antagonist at the Canadian Islamic Congress threatens to sue me
Khurrum Awan, the youth president of the Jew-hating Canadian Islamic Congress, has threatened me with a lawsuit. You can see the rambling, typo-ridden libel notice here. (Seriously, Khurrum: spell check. It’s free.)
Awan is an experienced practitioner in the soft jihad of “lawfare”, the abusive practice where lawsuits are filed against critics of radical Islam just to harass them and silence them, Erin Brockovich-style. He’s done it before: Awan fronted the CIC’s three identical “human rights” complaints against Maclean’s magazine for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s best-selling book America Alone. Awan wasn’t the actual complainant in those cases – the CIC’s president, Mohamed Elmasry, was. But Awan was the public spokesman for those nuisance suits.
What does the Canadian Islamic Congress believe in?
Why did Elmasry need a sock puppet? Well, for starters, here’s a video clip of Elmasry proudly justifying terrorist murders of Israeli civilians:
That’s pretty much par for the course over at the CIC. A couple of years ago, they distributed Nazi-style anti-Semitic cartoons door-to-door as part of their election efforts. Personally, my favourite Elmasry moment is whenever he denounces the Canadian media as being run by “the zhoos” – a line he repeated again and again without a flicker of embarrassment at a convention of the Canadian Association of Journalists.
That’s the Canadian Islamic Congress. They’re a great fit for Saudi Arabia or Egypt. They’re just not really ready for prime time in a liberal democracy. And now their youth president, Khurrum Awan, wants a full public trial – in a real court, not a kangaroo court – about, amongst other things, whether or not they’re anti-Semites.
I’ll take those odds. With Elmasry as his mentor, I’m guessing Awan is just a wee bit tone deaf on the whole bigotry thing.
It’s nuttier than a Snickers bar over at the CIC, but that hasn’t bothered Awan one bit. The CIC championed the cause of terrorist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah, and opposed the listing of them as terrorists under Canadian law. They actually defended the Butcher of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. And then there’s the hired help: the CIC publishes screeds from anti-Semites like Greg Felton, whose views are as diverse as supporting Iran’s nuclear program to praising Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning the Holocaust.
That’s Awan’s crew: Jew-haters, terrorist-lovers, censors and nuisance litigants. So it’s no surprise, dear friends, that he has decided to come for me.
A political document, not a legal document
Let’s walk through Awan’s libel notice page by page.
The first thing to note is that the letter is signed by Brian Shiller – who just happens to be the same lawyer representing Richard Warman, the serial complainant and litigant-of-fortune behind nearly 90% of all section 13 censorship prosecutions in Canada. Yes, that’s the same Richard Warman whose conduct was denounced as “disappointing” and “disturbing” by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, because Warman published anti-Semitic bigotry on the Internet. Warman joined a neo-Nazi organization, and published on their website that Jewish politicians were “scum”.
Come to think of it, if Warman and Awan are ever waiting in Shiller’s office at the same time, I think they could pass the time quite pleasantly with a discussion about those zhoos, don’t you?
The zhoos: scum or media manipulators? Discuss.
And, of course, Shiller’s other client is Warren Kinsella, who has also filed a nuisance suit against me. One of Kinsella’s complaints is that I repeated his own boast that he had given help and advice to… Khurrum Awan!
In other words, these guys aren’t even hiding the fact that they’re part of a concerted effort to censor me, Mark Steyn and other critics of radical Islam and Canada’s abusive human rights commissions.
I think Awan actually drafted the libel notice, not Shiller
The libel notice is rambling, full of typos and comprised mainly of political arguments, not arguments that have any place in a defamation lawsuit. I think Awan prepared it, and Shiller didn’t even read it carefully before faxing it over.
Take a look at page 4 of the letter (page 5 of the .pdf): point 3 slips from the third person (“Mr. Awan”) into the first person (“me”). It’s pretty clear Awan wrote the letter and Shiller just signed it. Here’s a snapshot of that section:
That’s the thing about nuisance suits: they’re not substantively serious; they’re just designed to harass.
Right on the first page of the libel notice is a pretty serious charge: Awan says I accuse him of committing perjury. That’s a grave thing to say about anyone, especially a law student or lawyer (I’m not sure which one Awan is now).
But there’s one problem with that: I have never accused him of perjury. The opposite, actually – I have, several times, noted that he was a serial liar to the public and through the media, but when he finally took an oath and testified in the B.C. show trial of Mark Steyn, Awan reverted to the truth. I specifically said he did not commit perjury. Here’s one example of what I wrote, live from the court house last year:
Julian Porter himself was at the meeting where Khurrum Awan and his junior Al Sharptons tried to shake down Ken Whyte and Maclean’s for cash and a cover story.
Porter asked Awan point blank if the CIC’s proposed “counter-article” was to be “mutually acceptable” to Whyte or of the CIC’s own choosing.
After obfuscating for a few rounds, Awan acknowledged that he never in fact offered a “mutually acceptable” article -- that was simply an after-the-fact lie, a little bit of taqqiya that Awan et al. has told the press.
Awan admitted that he made no such offer of a mutually acceptable author. It was to be the CIC’s own choice.
Awan and the other sock puppets had been lying for a year to the general public – pretending that they had made a “reasonable” offer to Maclean’s (as if there’s any reasonable way to demand a five-page rebuttal from a national magazine.) But under oath, Awan admitted that his public comments were false – he didn’t suggest that the rebuttal be written by an author mutually agreeable to him and Maclean’s. He demanded that Maclean’s submit to his choice.
I didn’t accuse Awan of perjury. I did the opposite – I recognized that when he was finally under oath, he finally told the truth for the first time.
Odds and ends
Awan’s libel notice isn’t a serious legal document. Instead, it’s reminiscent of the rambling, out-of-context “brief” that Awan prepared for use against Steyn at the HRCs. That wasn’t a real legal document, either – but then again, HRCs aren’t real courts.
I don’t propose to rebut the entire thing now; there are some amazing flaws in it that I would prefer to respond to after the Statement of Claim is filed. But let me address a few points:
Khurrum Awan admitted under oath he had tried to get Maclean’s to pay $10,000 in penance for running Mark Steyn’s book excerpt. I call that a shakedown, Al Sharpton-style.
Awan? He has it both ways; he claims the money would be for a charity, not for himself (again, I charge I never made). And then he denies it was a shakedown at all.
I think Awan is too used to writing logically incoherent letters to the editor. It will be fascinating to hear what a real judge thinks of Awan’s little scheme to liberate $10,000 from Maclean’s. Shakedown? Hell yes it was. And I’ll always be proud of Maclean’s that they didn’t pay.
Awan says that calling him a damn fool is defamatory. Well, unlike Awan’s favourite forums – human rights commissions – in real courts, truth is a defence to defamation. Whether or not Awan is a damn fool (or damned fool, to be more grammatically correct) isn’t really a matter of fact, though – it’s probably a matter of opinion. And, yes, it is my opinion that Awan is a damned fool.
If Awan asks a court to have a hearing into whether or not he’s a damned fool, I think he pretty much answers that question himself, don’t you think?
Awan sabotaged – by a Jew again?
A hilarious moment in Mark Steyn’s show trial was when Awan was confronted about an inaccuracy in one of his letters to the editor. In an Elmasry-like act of blamestorming, he blamed Jonathan Kay, the editorial page editor of the National Post, accusing Kay of changing what Awan really meant. Here’s my blog from that moment in the trial:
What a gorgeous new lie young Khurrum Awan has offered. He claims that his letter to the editor to the National Post (in response to my own article!) might have been edited by Jonathan Kay, to insert the lie that Porter has caught him in.
Awan is hoping that the Kangaroos will believe that Jonathan Kay added the words "mutually acceptable" to his letter to the editor.
Yeah, that's the ticket, Khurrum. You weren't lying in a dozen identical letters and Op-Eds. Jonathan Kay (I hear he's a zhoo!) and a dozen other editor across the country made identical edits to Awan's letter.
They should be the one answering to big, bad Julian Porter! He's mean!
That’s the same excuse Awan trots out again in 2009, claiming that one of his embarrassing letters to the editor was changed by someone at the Toronto Star, and that I should have known better before criticizing it! What a fascinating place Awan’s mind must be, full of kaleidoscopes and cacophonous music. What a lucky, lucky man to have such a fertile imagination.
Revisionism: was Awan co-counsel?
At Steyn’s show trial, I found it bizarre that Awan was both co-counsel for Elmasry, as well as a witness for Elmasry. That’s just weird – and it’s something that no real court would allow.
It was pretty evident that Awan was co-counsel: he was sitting at the table reserved for counsel. He assisted lead counsel, Faisal Joseph. He had helped to prepare the case; he scurried around, as junior counsel does, chasing documents.
But now he’s denying the whole thing
Again, it’s not really a strong legal point. But it does go to Awan’s bizarre relationship with reality. There were fifty reporters in the room that day, including one from the New York Times. Were we all blind – were we all lying? Or – is it possible – that Khurrum Awan, serial liar, is lying again?
I’m getting bored of Awan’s whining victimology
Look, it’s painful reading Awan’s letter. It’s not a real defamation notice – it’s a way-too-long letter to the editor, dressed up as a legal document. That’s sort of what Warren Kinsella does, too – he puts out press releases, but calls them libel suits. I guess it’s for guys who want to add a little bit of menace to their PR, but both end up coming across as bullies and blowhards.
Awan’s letter is an attempt, a year later, to change the embarrassing history of his big public campaign against Maclean’s. He was eaten alive by every journalist in the country, and was made a laughingstock in the blogosphere. Even his fellow sock puppets had the sense to abandon his suicide run. Not Awan: he’s still proudly out there calling for more censorship powers for the government. If I were a Canadian Muslim, I’d be pretty embarrassed that Awan was claiming to speak for me.
It’s boring to read such whining. Awan was whiny in response to Maclean’s magazine; he was whiny on the stand at the BCHRT. He’s whiny in his endless Op-Eds. And he’s whiny in this rambling libel notice. I guess it’s his right to whine; but he’ll soon find out that defamation law does not turn on whining, or even on hurt feelings. It does not turn on mockery or on hyper-sensitivity of plaintiff. It does not turn on politics or on victimology. It’s about true facts and fair comments – or, as our Supreme Court ruled last year: “We live in a free country where people have as much right to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions as moderate ones.” I’m glad Canadians have such liberty, though I don’t think it’s even outrageous or ridiculous to opine that Awan’s conduct is that of a “damn fool”, a liar, and someone who would do well to just shut up, try to practice law, and keep his head down for a very, very long time.
So what’s next?
If he’s serious, Awan will serve me with a Statement of Claim within a few weeks. That will formally start the process, and I will have to reply with a Statement of Defence. That’s where the costs come in.
My lawyers are getting pretty good at cranking out defences to these nuisance suits, but it still takes time to go through them, line by line, to make sure they’re properly rebutted. I estimate that the cost of filing a defence will be $6,000. After that, it depends on Awan’s conduct – for example, will he try to avoid disclosing relevant documents? Depending on what procedure he chooses, we could have examinations for discovery – depositions, as they’re called in the U.S. Those could cost $10,000. It’s too premature to do the math beyond that.
Frankly, I think that Awan’s case is as weak as the other nuisance suits that have been flung at me. But that’s not the point – the point is that they all cost money and hassle, which is why they’re being filed against me in the first place. They’re trying to demoralize me – to stop me from fighting for freedom of speech and due process. Awan in particular is mad that his great PR campaign has backfired, and that while he is now viewed as a thin-skinned censor, he only made Mark Steyn more famous and better loved. And Awan is angry that I’ve undermined his favourite weapon of lawfare: HRCs. He loves them – he abuses them – and he wants to continue. That’s tougher now, given his public humiliation at the hands of a hundred bloggers (including me).
Can you please help me?
In addition to Awan’s threat, I have four ongoing civil suits against me, as I’ve mentioned above. Some months there is very little legal work, but others are quite busy. My lawyers' bills range between $2,000 a month to $6,000 a month. If Awan follows through with a suit, it will be a $6,000 month.
If you believe in fighting against the anti-Semitic Canadian Islamic Congress; if you believe in standing up to Mohamed Elmasry’s junior president; if you believe that Awan’s complaints against Maclean’s and Mark Steyn were outrageous and punitive, and that he should be stopped; if you think he is indeed a liar and a buffoon – and a damn fool – then please help me out.
I enjoy the fight very much, because I believe I’m on the side of liberty and our western values here. I believe that Awan and company are undermining our way of life, especially our freedom to criticize radical Islam. He’s trying to silence me – which makes sense from his point of view, in a crude political calculation. But it’s not just, and it's not Canadian.
I promise I’ll fight back. Can you help me with the one thing I can’t do on my own, which is cover all my legal bills?
My family has been very supportive of me – my saintly wife understands that freedom of speech is something that must be defended, and she shares my concern about radical, political Islam – all the moreso given that we have two daughters now. If you can help bear the financial burden for our family, I’ll do the rest.
Yours most gratefully,
P.S. If you can chip in by PayPal, please click on the button below. If you’d prefer to send in a cheque by snail mail, that’s great. Please make cheques payable to my lawyer on this case:
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Thank you very much. With your help, I promise to fight this battle all the way to the end.
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