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CAIR Welcomes Federal Ruling Striking Down Arkansas’ Israel Boycott (BDS) Law as ‘Unconstitutional’ Restriction on Free Speech

Muslim civil rights group calls on Georgia and other states to stop defending illegal anti-boycott laws

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – 2/12/2021) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and organization, today welcomed a federal appeals court decision that declared Arkansas’ anti-BDS law, which requires Americans to sign an oath pledging not to boycott the Israeli government as a condition for working with the state, is unconstitutional. 

SEE: Federal Court of Appeals Declares Arkansas’ Israel Boycott 

Arkansas Times wins challenge of state’s Israel boycott rule

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturns a district court that upheld the anti-boycott law. The free speech lawsuit filed against the state of Arkansas was filed by the ACLU on behalf of The Arkansas Times, which lost its advertising relationship with the state when the newspaper refused to sign a state-mandated oath pledging not to boycott Israel. CAIR filed an amicus brief in the Arkansas case alongside numerous other civil rights groups.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“Today’s federal ruling represents a critically important moment in the struggle to protect free speech here at home and advance human rights overseas. From Arizona, to Texas, to Arkansas, numerous courts now recognize the obvious: states cannot require individuals or corporations to sign an oath pledging support for the Israeli government as a condition for working with a state government.”

CAIR also today called for the State of Georgia and other states with similar anti-boycott provisions to stop enforcing the unconstitutional laws and stop defending them in court.

Last year, CAIR National and CAIR-Georgia filed a federal free speech lawsuit against the University System of Georgia after a state university cancelled a journalist’s speaking engagement when she refused to sign a state oath pledging not to boycott Israel. In 2019, CAIR won a landmark legal victory against a similar law in Texas. 

In a statement, CAIR National Deputy Director Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:

“Just as African-Americans had the constitutional right to participate in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and just as anti-apartheid activists had the constitutional right to boycott South Africa’s government, every American has the constitutional right to boycott the Israeli government over its human rights abuses of Palestinians. And no state has the right to punish any American for engaging in protected free speech.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, and other civil rights organizations have filed free speech lawsuits against anti-BDS laws in Arizona, Maryland, and Texas. So far, courts have blocked anti-boycott laws in Kansas, Arizona, and Texas.

SEE: Texas Judge Blocks Law Banning Contractors from Engaging in Boycotts of Israel

SEE: Arizona Lawmakers Running Scared After Anti-Boycott Law Ruled Unconstitutional

In Texas, the federal court held that that the state’s anti-boycott law “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” The Court concluded: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

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CONTACT: National Litigation Director Lena Masri, (202) 742-6420, lmasri@cair.com; Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425, gabbas@cair.com; National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com

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