Muslim Groups Lose Defamation Ruling

(CN) – A Texas writer did not defame Muslims as terrorists in an online article blasting a Muslim Family Day at a Dallas theme park, because his allegations were too vague, a Texas appeals court ruled.

     Six Flags Over Texas sponsored Muslim Family Day on Oct. 14, 2007. Seventeen days before the event, Joe Kaufman wrote an article for Front Page magazine titled “Radical Muslim Family Day.”
     Kaufman described the Islamic Circle of North America as a “radical Muslim organization” and “a recent donor to Hamas” and “involved in the financing of al-Qaeda.”
     “While using images of cartoon characters (Bugs Bunny) and sponsoring events at amusement parks may seem innocuous,” Kaufman wrote,” the danger that the (ICNA) poses to the United States, Canada, and others is real.”
     The event drew 9,000 people; Kaufman was outside with a group of protestors with a sign that read “Six Flags Over Terrorists.”
     Seven local Islamic groups sued Kaufman for defamation and asked the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Forth Worth to dismiss Kaufman’s interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s ruling.
     The lower court sustained the Islamic group’s objection to Kaufman’s summary judgment evidence.     
     Justice Livingston ruled that Kaufman had status as a journalist to file the interlocutory appeal.
     “Because we conclude that Kaufman’s extrinsic notoriety (through his appearances on television), his substantial readership, the inherent public concern in the terrorism issues he reports and opines on, and his journalistic experience would all favor his qualification as a media defendant,” Livingston wrote.
     Livingston went on to rule in Kaufman’s favor because he had named the ICNA – not any of the seven appellant groups – in his article. The groups claimed they were defamed by the first paragraph, which read:
     “Those involved with this group’s event, Muslim Family Day, may very well have found an original and appealing way to spread anti-Western hatred.”
     Livingston said this statement did not give rise to a valid defamation case by the seven Islamic groups.
     “Even if a reasonable reader could attribute a more expansive meaning to ‘those involved,'” the justice wrote, “that meaning would be too broad to encompass only appellees’ organizations.”

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