The Daily Mail and Huffington Post have recently published articles criticising the National Union of Students (NUS) for inviting CAGE outreach director Moazzam Begg to speak at several events next month as part of a campaign against the government’s failing counter-terrorism programme PREVENT.
The articles reported several inaccuracies about CAGE, which we deal with below.
Huffington Post: The group was harshly criticised and accused of being “ISIS apologists” following the conference, where Qureshi described Emwazi as a “person [who]… would never hurt a single person”.
Daily Mail: “Cage first hit the headlines in February when a senior figure described Islamic State beheader Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful, kind man’.”
These statements about CAGE’s position are simply false. The words used by CAGE Research Director, Asim Qureshi, referred to the Mohammed Emwazi of 2011 as a “beautiful man…extremely kind, extremely gentle, extremely soft-spoken…”. This was before the Syrian conflict began and even well before the creation of ISIS. This description is clearly not in reference to an alleged killer of innocents including aid workers.
We continue to call for open debate on the reasons people are turning to violence. Part of this process is to try to understand in a dispassionate and evidence-based manner the trajectory of individuals who have engaged in acts of political violence.
CAGE does not support terrorism in any form. This is underlined by the fact that our outreach director Moazzam Begg offered at a crucial point to negotiate for Alan Henning’s release, but the British government refused his offer of assistance.
Daily Mail: “Through Begg, Cage developed links with the radical preacher and Al Qaeda cheerleader Anwar al-Awlaki and campaigned for his release from detention in Yemen.”
CAGE’s position was that it campaigned for Anwar al-Awlaki when he was detained without charge in line with the remit of its work. Since his release CAGE was however opposed to a number of positions that he took, despite not agreeing with the order by President Obama to have him targeted for assassination. CAGE’s positions on Awlaki are important due to the organisation consistently asking questions of the efficacy of counter-terrorism policy.
Awlaki’s case is an important one to analyse, as questions must be asked about the role that his detention without charge and torture played in his subsequent desire to join those affiliated to al-Qaeda. These issues are crucial to debate in a public manner with full transparency, as CAGE feels this is the best way to understand how to keep communities safe.
Our full report into al-Awlaki’s detention and killing is available here
Daily Mail: “Cage’s bank accounts were frozen after intervention from the Treasury.”
The Treasury has written to us on more than one occasion confirming that we are not a designated organisation saying that “CAGE is not nor has it ever been subject to financial restriction imposed by the Treasury”.
[Rupert Sutton, director of Student Rights said:] “Until the NUS stops working with groups like CAGE, or parroting extremist narratives on Prevent, it will continue to be part of the problem on campuses.”
Student Rights has seen its support haemorrhaging in recent years. With several members of it’s own board members quitting, including the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake. This comes as several student unions passed anti-Student Rights motions questioning the legitimacy of a group without any student representation.
More recently the sovereign policy making body of NUS passed a resolution to as far as is practical, not engage with the PREVENT strategy, to oppose the Counter Terrorism and Security Act and actively work to cut PREVENT funded initiatives.
NUS also “reaffirmed opposition to PREVENT, and to work with civil liberties organisations working to challenge it”. With a commitment to work “alongside civil liberties groups including CAGE, lobby the government to repeal it [Counter Terrorism and Security Act] immediately.”
CAGE welcomes this position as it will avoid the alienation of Muslim communities and sends a powerful message to students that all groups need to work together in countering the narrative that Muslims are a threat to society instead of equal partners committed to creating a more equal, just and fair society for all.
CAGE will continue to assert the need for an open and fair discussion looking at root causes of political violence, with a view to seeking solutions to end the cycles of violence that characterise the War on Terror. These unfounded accusations demonstrate a concern by vested interests that our position holds credible merit.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)