We would like to highlight several errors in a recent article by the Telegraph, featuring the head of the Government’s Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), as the only source in an unbalanced and inaccurate story.
Allegation 1: The headline and the centring of CAGE in the story, infers that we use Islamophobia as a means to ‘silence criticism’
The problem of Islamophobia within the CCE is thoroughly evidenced in our report CCE Exposed.
The report was released not to “silence” criticism – on the contrary; it was released to show the compromised nature of a so-called “independent” body, which is essentially charged with silencing any form of dissent or challenge against discriminatory structures within the state.
We will continue to use the word Islamophobia when required, to refer to the fear, ignorance and discrimination against Muslims that unfortunately pervades state structures and organisations, in the hope that this will bring honest reflection and open up debate.
Allegation 2: “extremists are exploiting both the anti-racism agenda and free speech cause, weaponising them to further their own extremist propaganda.”
The work of CAGE dovetails with that of anti-racism, since the manner in which counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policies are formulated and enacted are highly racialised. This is evidenced by countless research papers from various institutions.
The term ‘extremists’ is systematically used by the state and media to malign those who dissent. It lacks any workable or legal definition. Malcolm X explained this in his Oxford Union address:
“When a man whom they have been taught is below them, has the nerve or firmness to question some of their philosophies or conclusions, usually, they put that label [extremist] on him, a label that is only designed to project an image which the public will find distasteful”.
Moreover, applying the label of “extremism” and the counter-terrorism apparatus to far-right white groups as the CCE does, only entrenches the policies that oppress our community and does not solve the deeper problems precipitated by counter-terrorism legislation and the counter-extremism sector.
It’s also worth noting the very deliberate choice of an image of an ISIS fighter for the article, despite it focusing on the unrelated matter of groups challenging the CCE and the Islamophobic counter-extremism agenda at home.
Error 1: The story inferred that we defended Mohammad Emwazi.
This is inaccurate. Our comments were always about him in the past when he approached us as a client prior to his transformation into an ISIS fighter several years later.
Error 2: The story did not clarify that our director Muhammad Rabbani was convicted for a terrorism offence for doing nothing but protecting the privacy of a torture survivor.
You can read more details behind our director’s legal case here, and our campaign at the time highlighted the intense violations of digital – and thus personal – privacy, and discrimination embedded in the Schedule 7 policy. Our work to repeal Schedule 7 is ongoing and growing.
Error 3: The headline and positioning of CAGE infers our organisation is “Islamist”
CAGE is and has been staffed by many individuals of different backgrounds. Our goal is defending the rule of law and upholding due process for all.
We do not use, endorse or recognise the term ‘Islamist’. CAGE is a pro-justice organisation with an Islamic ethos.
We continue to call for the use of sensible, responsible and precise language when discussing matters of civil liberties especially.
Telegraph refusal to offer CAGE the right to reply
Despite these many inferred allegations and errors, CAGE was given no right to reply as per the country’s Editors’ Code of Practice.
We wrote a letter to the Telegraph outlining the allegations and errors to which we should have been given a chance to respond.
However, journalist Charles Hymas, the Telegraph’s Home Affairs Editor, denied stating that we defended Emwazi (though this was inferred).
He also said the story “did not state that CAGE was Islamist”, although the headline framed us as such. Nonetheless, Hymas quipped: “We see no breach of the Editors’ Code.”
We are publishing this response for the public record.
(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.)