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Muslim civil rights group files lawsuit against anti-BDS order in Maryland

January 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Demonstrators come together to support the BDS movement on 15 July 2012 [Heri Rakotomalala/Flickr]

A Muslim civil rights group yesterday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Maryland from enforcing an executive order signed by Governor Larry Hogan that bans contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.

The federal lawsuit by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) claims that the order, signed by Hogan in October 2017, “tramples on the First Amendment rights of a software engineer who advocates for Palestinians”, reported the Associated Press.

CAIR sued Hogan and state Attorney General Brian Frosh “on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator”. The lawsuit “says the order bars him from bidding for government software program contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organisations that ‘contribute to the oppression of Palestinians’.”

“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is core political speech on a matter of public concern entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection,” the suit says.

READ: UK pro-Palestine group wins right to challenge ban on BDS in Supreme Court 

According to AP, “the order requires contractors to certify in writing that they don’t boycott Israel”, and the suit “claims the order has an unconstitutional chilling effect on First Amendment-protected political advocacy supporting Palestine.”

CAIR says: “25 other states have enacted measures similar to Maryland’s, through legislation or executive orders”, with other federal lawsuits challenging “measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.”

The executive order states that a boycott based on religion, national origin or ethnicity is discriminatory. A business boycott of Israel and its territories “is not a commercial decision made for business or economic reasons”, it says.