A Muslim group is accusing a Christian organization of defamation for publishing a book that accuses the Muslim collective of holding terrorist training in New York and other states.
The Christian Action Network refuses to back down, challenging Muslims of America Inc. to prove the allegations wrong in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. A scheduled conference in the defamation case is planned for May 17 in The Muslims of America v. Mawyer, 3:13-cv-0169, before Magistrate Judge David Peebles (See Profile) in Binghamton.
The Muslim group has a community in Hancock, near Binghamton, and in six other states as well as in Canada and Trinidad.
In its complaint, the group accuses the Christian Action Network and authors Martin Mawyer and Patti Pierucci of making "malicious, repetitious and continuous" defamatory statements about the group in print and in the media.
Muslims of America contends that the 2012 book Mawyer and Pierucci co-wrote, "Twilight in America: the Untold Story of Terrorist Training Camps Inside America," makes unfounded accusations linking the group to terrorist activities.
The Muslim group is seeking retractions, $18 million in damages and a ban on future publication of the book, saying in its complaint that it has suffered "substantial, incalculable and irreparable harm, contempt, and ridicule to reputation."
It also wants the writers to be prohibited from discussing the book in the media.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a Chicopee, Mass., lawyer for Muslims of America, said in an interview that the group’s residential communities are peaceful.
"The property upstate has farms; it has gardens; it has buildings for work; it has little stores," she said. "It’s a community of families and of individuals who are just trying to get by day to day."
Residents’ common denominator is their faith, she said.
"Everyone believes in one God and the Prophet Mohammed as his messenger," she said.
The Lynchburg, Va.-based Christian Action Network was founded in 1990 by Mawyer, former editor of the Reverend Jerry Falwell’s "Moral Majority Report."
Among Mawyer’s other works are the documentaries "Homegrown Jihad" and "Islam Rising."
The Christian Action Network has continued to promote "Twilight in America" on its website (www.christianaction.org) since the Muslims in America suit was filed in February.
"The defendants intend to vigorously defend this case in order to protect their right to free speech under the First Amendment," said Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig in Albany, who represents the Christian Action Network.
In their answer to Muslims of America’s complaint, the Christian Action Network said the statements in the book and by the authors in the media about it "are not actionable to the extent they were made within the sphere of legitimate public interest and/or were reasonably related to matters warranting public exposition."
The Christian group added that no punitive damages are recoverable in New York in such defamation actions.
Muslims of America said it also operates communities in Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas. It says in its court papers that it was founded in the mid-1980s as a means of providing Muslims with safe, non-urban environments where its members can practice their religion in peace.
The group said that it has always counseled members and residents to abide by U.S. laws and avoid criminal, immoral and antisocial behavior. The communities include doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, tradesmen, farmers and business people, with workshops, seminars and interfaith outreach open to the public, it has said.
In "Twilight in America," however, Mawyer and Pierucci contend that Muslims of America is a front for the radical group Jamaat Al Fuqras and that it has held terrorist training at its rural enclaves.