This afternoon at a hearing at the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit, local attorney and blogger Debbie Schlussel, known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric that many have deemed extremist in nature, announced through her attorney Andrew Kochanowski that she had changed the name of a website she created with the same name as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The hearing took place as part of a trademark infrigement lawsuit filed by CAIR, the nation's largest Islamic organization, which is based in Washington, D.C., against Schlussel on Jan. 5.
Schlussel’s new website still uses the acronym CAIR, but the acronym now stands for the Council on American-Israel Relations as opposed to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The alteration of the site’s name is being regarded as a partial victory for CAIR representatives.
The website was created by Schlussel last year under the domain name cairmichigan.com, which is similar to the site of CAIR's Michigan branch, cairmichigan.org. Schlussel's domain name has not been changed. CAIR representatives say Schlussel’s site may have been confusing potential financial supporters of the organization and misrepresenting its interests.
The next court hearing hasn’t been announced. Judge Avern Cohn today declined the plaintiff’s request to file a restraining order against Schlussel, because she changed the name of the site. Kochanowski said his client claimed victory because of the ruling. Cohn also announced he wouldn’t order Schlussel to stop using the same domain name as the group.
CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas argued in court today that any use of the acronym CAIR in Schlussel’s domain names violates federal law. Cohn denounced Abbas’ argument saying other organizations use the acronym CAIR in their domain names. For now, the issue is being looked over as attorneys plan to file more legal briefings in the next 10 days.
“The domain name infringes on our trademark,” Abbas said. He continually pointed out that Schlussel’s intention when creating the website was to harass CAIR-Michigan and interfere with its work.
“This is intentional and malicious to mislead the public,” CAIR attorney Lena Masri said. In a blog post, Schlussel said she created the site to “drive Muslims crazy,” according to CAIR.
Cohn said Schlussel’s website would no longer intervene in CAIR’s interests because the name is changed. “No, this is in the past,” Cohn said. “There is nothing on this page that will link you to pro-CAIR content,” Cohn said while examining Schlussel’s new site in court.
When The Arab American News asked Schlussel to comment on what she would say to those who deem her blog extremist in nature, she responded, “sorry, I don’t give interviews to Hizbullah-funded newspapers.”
Abbas reacted to the hearing results outside the courthouse.
“The judge made it clear she can’t use Council on American-Islamic Relations; (he) didn't rule against us at all,” he said.
“Debbie Schlussel is actively trying to interfere, calling us frauds and imposters because she is, quote, ‘the original executive director.’ She changed her behavior because of our action,” Abbas added.
Inside the courtroom, Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights attempted to speak to Schlussel but was rebuffed. He tried again a second time outside the courtroom, but Schlussel distanced herself and said, “Do I have to file a restraining order against you?”
Elahi spoke about the Schlussel case.
“We’ve been patiently ignoring the ugly accusations (against the community by) Debbie Schlussel and for that reason there should be a time when ignoring is not enough. She is a source of division among communities of people," he said.
“She should be ashamed of herself; she’s not a lawyer. She’s a liar. She chooses the strategy of deception."