A young Scottish attorney is at the forefront of a bitter legal battle concerning the building of the controversial “Ground Zero mosque” in New York.
Peter Reid, from Glasgow, is defending the Islamic leader behind the scheme, in a wrangle that has split America down the middle.
The legal row has degenerated into a slanging match between Reid and his courtroom rival Larry Klayman, who has described Reid as a “two-bit hack” and a “whore”.
Reid is an attorney with Adam Leitman Bailey, the New York-based law firm that is defending Feisal Abdul Rauf. This Egyptian-American imam is the man behind Park51, also known as Cordoba House or the Ground Zero mosque – a planned development two blocks from the site of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
A 9/11 firefighter called Vincent Forras has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Feisal Rauf and his companies. He is seeking $350 million in damages for the “psychological terror and extreme emotional distress” he claims the building proposals have caused him and others. Klayman is representing him in court.
Forras and Klayman also allege that the imam and Park51 have links to organisations that have channelled funds to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.
In a motion to have the case dismissed, Reid wrote last week: “I will not let the right to prayer in the manner one chooses be silenced by shouts of rage; I will not let the right to the free exercise of religion be confined by narrowness of vision; and I will not let the right to erect a house of prayer be torn down by blind bigotry.”
Elsewhere, he notes: “The First and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee to defendants the right to the free exercise of their religion.”
Reid, who is married to an American, is a former pupil of Glasgow Academy. He studied law at Edinburgh University and worked in Scotland before moving to the US in 2002.
He told the Sunday Herald how he planned to attack an action he labels “frivolous”.
Klayman, his legal rival, has labelled the proposed development a “staging area” for terror attacks – and told the Sunday Herald that First Amendment rights “don’t exist when security concerns are present”.
But Reid said: “There are no grounds for those claims.” He added that the allegations about links to extremists were also unfounded.
Reid, a founder member of the Scottish Bar Society of New York, will be in court on November 4, when a judge will set a date for a hearing to decide whether the case should proceed.
Reid said of Klayman: “He’s an infamous publicity hound. This is an entirely frivolous case, based on bigotry.”
Klayman claims the imam and his legal team have put him and his client at risk. “Calling someone a blind bigot towards Muslims is like giving them a death sentence,” he told the Sunday Herald.
Originally published in The Sunday Herald, October 17, 2010