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Boston Imam Sues FOX TV

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    Local Muslim leader sues FOX-25 for defamation By Geoff Mosher Friday, February 25, 2005 Daily News From: Yousef Abou-Allaban A local
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2005
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      Local Muslim leader sues FOX-25 for defamation
      By Geoff Mosher
      Friday, February 25, 2005
      Daily News
      From: Yousef Abou-Allaban <Yousefmba@...>

      A local Muslim leader and physician whose practice is based in
      Walpole is suing FOX-25 News for defamation and violating his civil
      rights after a story the network aired claimed he was a member of an
      international terrorist organization.

      The lawsuit, filed against the Dedham-based station Wednesday in
      Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Dr. Yousef Abou-Allaban,
      chairman of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of Boston,
      was falsely purported to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an
      international terrorist group with branches in more than 70
      countries and reputed links to Osama bin Laden.

      "Initially, I was shocked because I felt all of a sudden, I was
      portrayed as a criminal for something I'd never done," said Abou-
      Allaban, who says he lives in the area but is fearful of disclosing
      which town. "I really couldn't believe that the media would do such
      a thing."

      According to the lawsuit, the network broadcast an undercover
      report Nov. 16 in which Abou-Allaban, a U.S. citizen born in Syria,
      was alleged to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Maggie Hennessey-Ness, FOX-25 director of Community Affairs,
      declined comment on the lawsuit yesterday. "We haven't even seen the
      lawsuit," Hennessey-Ness said. "We wouldn't comment on pending
      litigation."

      Abou-Allaban is a licensed physician and a certified
      psychiatrist. He is the medical director of Boston Health Care Inc.,
      a mental health group practice based in Walpole, and an assistant
      professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical
      School in Worcester.

      On Nov. 10, according to Abou-Allaban, FOX investigative
      reporter Michael Beaudet, who has been with the network since 1996,
      and a cameraman confronted Abou-Allaban as he was heading into his
      Walpole office.

      As the camera rolled, the Walpole physician said, Beaudet asked
      him whether he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Abou-Allaban
      told Beaudet he was late for a patient's appointment and could not
      speak with him at the moment.

      Abou-Allaban said he felt "bombarded" by the encounter, which at
      least two patients witnessed. "I didn't know what he was talking
      about," he said, adding that he came back outside moments later and
      gave Beaudet his contact information for an interview.

      In a telephone conversation with Beaudet later that day, Abou-
      Allaban said he denied any involvement with the organization. Abou-
      Allaban said Beaudet asked to set up an interview that day, but due
      to the doctor's busy schedule, he told the reporter he would need a
      week's notice.

      On Nov. 12, an Abou-Allaban attorney faxed FOX-25 producer
      Jonathan Wells a memo stating that Beaudet had "accosted" his client
      two days earlier in the parking lot outside his office building, the
      physician said.

      He went on to say the memo states "at least two" of Abou-
      Allaban's patients observed the encounter and have "expressed
      concern about what they saw" and that "any further action which
      interferes with" his relationship with his patients will be "dealt
      with accordingly."

      About a week later, FOX-25 included the taped exchange outside
      Abou-Allaban's office in a report claiming the news channel had
      uncovered a link between the Islamic Society of Boston, which is
      constructing a $22 million mosque and cultural center in downtown
      Boston, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

      The broadcast claimed the Muslim Brotherhood had arrived in
      Boston. It called the organization the grandfather of Islamic
      terrorism and said that it had launched the al Qaeda, Hamas and
      Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations.

      According to a copy of the lawsuit, stock footage of Osama bin
      Laden and a suicide bombing were shown, followed immediately by the
      confrontation between Beaudet and Abou-Allaban. His automobile and
      license plate number were clearly visible in the footage. Brief
      mention was made of the fact that he had denied any affiliation with
      the organization.

      FOX's sole source for Abou-Allaban's alleged ties to the Muslim
      Brotherhood, the suit says, was Ahmed Elkadi, an elderly man who has
      been diagnosed with "significant" dementia. Elkadi was identified as
      a former president of the organization's U.S. branch.

      The lawsuit also says the broadcast included a series of
      questions Beaudet had purportedly asked Elkadi, a retired physician.
      However, no sound or video of Beaudet's questions and Elkadi's
      answers were shown.

      The questions, according to the suit, were instead displayed on
      the screen and read by Beaudet, who reported that Elkadi
      answered "yes" when asked if Abou-Allaban was a member of the Muslim
      Brotherhood.

      The suit goes on to say that after the story initially aired,
      the exchange between Abou-Allaban and Beaudet became the subject of
      a FOX-25 advertisement touting the network's "undercover" team. The
      advertisement, which also did not include Abou-Allaban's denial,
      aired during primetime hours for several more weeks.

      Abou-Allaban said the ads were "10 to 20 times" more damaging
      than the story. He said he still has to explain to professional and
      personal acquaintances that he is not a "walking terrorist."

      Soon after the broadcasts, Abou-Allaban's 8-year-old son came
      from school terrified and told his father his classmates had teased
      him because they saw his father on television with Osama bin
      Laden. "I had to explain to my son that I'm not bad," he said.

      In addition to defamation and violation of his civil rights,
      Abou-Allaban is alleging he was portrayed in a false light, and that
      FOX intentionally caused him emotional distress. He also say FOX
      used unfair practices in portraying him in the advertizement to tout
      their news organization.

      The defendants in the suit are Beaudet, Wells and Fox Television
      Stations Inc., the Delaware corporation with headquarters in Los
      Angeles that is the station's license holder.

      The lawsuit states that the defendants should have had "serious
      doubts" about the veracity of Elkadi's alleged statement that Abou-
      Allaban was a member of Muslim Brotherhood; that they
      acted "recklessly" and with "no regard for the truth;" and that
      Beaudet confronted the plaintiff in a "threatening, intimidating and
      coercive" manner.

      The suit further alleges that FOX's broadcasts were part of
      a "relentless campaign by (the network) to defame and disparage
      Muslims."

      "This so-called news report panders to the lowest stereotypes of
      Muslims and is an example of the new racism that respectable news
      organizations should resist," said Abou-Allaban's attorney, Harvey
      Schwartz of Rogers, Powers & Schwartz of Boston.


      ( Geoff Mosher can be reached at gmosher@... or at 781-433-
      8368. )

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