Upcoming Daily Mail investigation evidence of Home Office push back

2018-03-21T19:49:34+00:00 January 5th, 2016|Political Violence, Press Release, PREVENT|
  • daily mail

A planned investigation by the Daily Mail that aims to discredit criticism of the Government’s failed and flawed PREVENT strategy is evidence that the Home Office is attempting to push back against the barrage of criticism facing its failed counter-terrorism programme. 

 

The investigation targets CAGE, NUS, MEND, HHUGS amongst others and centres around several speaking events held last year.

Daily Mail journalists (Paul Bentley and Katherine Faulkner) posed 85 questions to CAGE and gave us only 24 hours notice to respond to them. According to the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s guidelines, this can not be seen as reasonable amount of time in which to respond. All the questions centred around CAGE’s role as part of the growing movement against PREVENT. In the interest of transparency, we have posted the questions in full, along with our answers below.  

 

CAGE would like to reiterate the following:

  1. CAGE are not unique in opposing PREVENT. Singling out CAGE and others for investigation shows a clear bias. The government’s counter terrorism strategy has been criticised or condemned for the way in which it criminalises ordinary political dissent and threatens free speech and association by:

 

  1. The Daily Mail should itself answer questions regarding how it has gathered its information for the investigation, and the nature of its links to the Home Office, since its line of questioning to CAGE clearly echoes the state-sanctioned agenda, and seeks to cast academics, students, activists and world renowned speakers at these events as ‘extremist’. Like Jo Johnson, the Daily Mail seems to be taking it upon itself to call students and academics to stand in line behind the government’s counter-terrorism policy, regardless of the chilling effect it is having on Muslim communities and which it will have on broader civil society.

 

  1. The Daily Mail has a history of showing little critical understanding of issues around PREVENT. Their coverage of the subject has lacked balance in the past. We question the newspaper’s links with extreme right-wing organisations such as the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), which the paper refers to as ‘a respected Westminster think-tank’ and which reporters often use as the primary source in their stories. Members of the HJS have advocated for a highly securitised society and condoned rendition and torture. The organisation’s agenda, according to a recent report by Spinwatch, is “deeply influenced by Islamophobia and an open embrace of the War on Terror”.

 

  1. Much of the Daily Mail’s coverage of campus life cites Student Rights, a front group for the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), as its primary source of information. A report released in 2014 by the group was labelled a “witch hunt” against Muslims by a former Vice President of the National Union of Students (NUS) at the time. Student Rights has also been condemned by the NUS National Executive Council, the NUS Black Students’ Conference and dozens university student unions. The NUS refuses to work with Student Rights.

 

  1. Seen in this light, the Daily Mail’s coverage of issues relating to the NUS and CAGE must be understood for what it is: a thinly veiled effort, quite possibly influenced by the Home Office and lauded by right wing organisations, to discredit a growing opposition movement. We reiterate our opposition to PREVENT as a politically motivated programme that shuts down debate and has a chilling effect on free speech and thought. It erodes trust and community relations, alienates those it professes to protect, and in so doing is more likely to cause politically motivated violence rather than counter it.

 

  1. Such dedicated investigative coverage by one of the country’s most renowned right-wing dailies is surely a sign of success for those who remain deeply concerned with and united against the government’s failing counter-terrorism programme.

 

The Daily Mail have put the following questions to CAGE, to which we have responded below. To download in PDF format please click here:

 

Q. At a number of events at university campuses over the past four months, students and university staff have been coached on obstructing the Government’s anti-extremism mea
sures by CAGE staff, including director Moazzam Begg.

CAGE has been invited to speak at a numerous public events (including universities) for several years. This has always been with the full awareness of the relevant institutions and in line with external speaker policy. We take no funds nor do we pay for doing the right thing.

 

Q. CAGE appears to have deliberately hijacked a student movement campaigning against PREVENT and targeted young Muslims in order to obstruct efforts to prevent them being radicalised.

In fact, CAGE is encouraging young Muslims to believe they are isolated and being spied on and monitored.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

“CAGE did not ‘hijack’ a student movement. We have been at the forefront of documenting and campaigning against PREVENT since its inception. Since then opposition to PREVENT has grown and a diverse number of organisations have come together around common goals to oppose it, with CAGE being at the forefront of them, since it is Muslim communities that are most affected by the legislation, so we provide the litmus test. Currently, around 800 academics in the Guardian and Independent have spoken out against PREVENT so why shouldn’t CAGE hold events on campuses?”

 

Moazzam Begg:

“There was no “instruction” given to anyone on how to oppose PREVENT by me at any of the said events. That role was being very adequately fulfilled by staff and students of the said universities which had already initiated their own counter-PREVENT programmes because of a genuine apprehension they have towards the failed government scheme.

I have been speaking in Britain’s universities since my return from Guantanamo in 2005 on issues pertaining to the erosion of civil liberties in the war on terror. Using the word “hijacking” to describe our cooperation with student and teacher bodies in our opposition to PREVENT is a lazy and spurious attempt at deflecting the daily concerns of ordinary students who fear being targeted in the growing atmosphere of anti-Muslim hatred and hate crimes. In fact, one of the speakers at these events was Mohammed Umar Farooq, a university student who was reported to PREVENT officers for reading a book in the university library on terrorism – a book that was part of his course of study. There is ample evidence to show that many Muslims – and non-Muslims – believe, not without reason, that PREVENT encourages an atmosphere in which they feel spied upon. The majority of speakers on the Students Not Suspects tour have been non-Muslim academics who understand this very well.

Prominent young Muslims and organisations led by young Muslims have all spoken of concerns they hold regarding PREVENT. It is widely acknowledged amongst both academic and community groups that PREVENT is ineffectual at stopping radicalisation thus Preventing PREVENT in no way enables radicalisation. This has been extensively reported for a number of years. It is for PREVENT or perhaps the Daily Mail to provide evidence to the contrary.”

 

Q. On October 14, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Students not Suspects’ event at King’s College London.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of this event?

Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations. Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. During the talk Mr Begg suggested students break the law and defy PREVENT, the Government’s anti-radicalisation policy, which ‘aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism’.

Mr Begg said: ‘PREVENT now is law and opposing it in the way that you would want to would probably be illegal. But you must oppose it, at least in word if not in deed.’

Mr Begg questioned the idea that ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’ were ‘bad things’ and said Ghandi and Nelson Mandela were both ‘extremists’. He suggested the very notion of extremism was racist and that the threat of Islamic terrorism was being deliberately exaggerated by newspapers and the Government.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

To begin with, although PREVENT places a duty on institutions and public sector workers, there is no legal obligation for students to implement PREVENT.  Therefore, students will not be breaking the law since no such law exists in the first place.

 

Moazzam Begg:

“The question poorly suggests I encouraged breaking the law despite my assertion that it is now law and illegal. Nonetheless, opposing a law and breaking it are two very different things, especially as there is no empirical evidence that PREVENT stops terrorism. In fact, PREVENT has the opposite effect and helps to create a feeling of victimisation and alienation as we have seen through numerous cases reported to us and beyond. The Daily Mail itself has reported on the ludicrous cases of ten-year old boys being referred to PREVENT for requesting a prayer room or, a fourteen-year old being questioned for mentioning the existence of eco-terrorism in a discussion on ecology in French class. The labelling of Jeremy Corbyn as a terror sympathiser and a threat to national security renders such labels meaningless. Opposing something in “word, not deed” is self-explanatory.

 

I reiterated that EUROPOL statistics concluded that 0.3% of terrorist acts in Europe were carried by Muslims in the year 2013-14.  Even Sky News has research which shows that the recent terror arrests had a disproportionate number of suspects who had either been charged or have been released due to a lack of evidence. CAGE takes a fact based approach to our advocacy.”

 

Q. Under the PREVENT policy, universities are obliged to ‘ensure those espousing extremist views do not go unchallenged’. Leaflets about the university’s ‘safe spaces’ policy were handed out, claiming the university will ‘ensure a balance of opinions at any academic discussion or debate’. Despite this, there was no opposing voice on the panel supporting anti-extremism measures and no one from the audience offered a dissenting view.

Why was no balance offered at the event? Did the university object to the fact the panel was not balanced?

 

This would be a question for the organisers and university. However we would say that our views on PREVENT are reflected in a joint letter signed by over 300 leading academics, theologians and prominent figures, thus not at all extreme and not subject to this authoritarian legislation.

 

Q. After the event, a message appeared on the King’s’ College Student Union website stating that two days before the event, University authorities had tried to block it- stating objections to Mr Begg speaking. However, their attempts to block the event ‘failed’.

How did the University attempt to block the event and why did CAGE hold it anyway despite these objections?

 

As the elected sabbatical team at Kings’ College Student Union have said about their ‘Students Not Suspects’ policy:

“The problem with the Preventing Violent Extremism Strategy is that it turns students into suspects and academics into informants.
Many of the indicators of radicalisation outlined in the PREVENT guidance are so vague as to be meaningless. For example, indicators include ‘a desire for political or moral change’ and ‘a need for identity, meaning and belonging’, experiences that are part and parcel of a well-rounded University experience. We will continue to back student resistance to the PREVENT agenda in general.”

As a democratic charity led by its student members, KCLSU has a mandate to uphold decisions passed at the Annual General Meeting and Student Council.”

In addition, senior management of King’s’ College London were not only happy for the event taking place at their institution.  They were even in attendance at the event. It would be for the Daily Mail to prove what attempt was made to ‘block’ the event. As this would be verging on fabrication.

 

Q. On November 19, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Crime to Care?’ talk at King’s College London.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. The ‘Crime to Care’ talk at King’s College was less than a week after the Paris attacks. During the talk – which was filmed by an undercover reporter from the Daily Mail – Mr Begg encouraged sympathy for Jihadist groups Ahrar al-Sham and Al Nusra – the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.

He spoke about these groups as if they are innocent Syrian opposition fighters.

He said: ‘Islamic State is not a threat to the West like it is a threat to the Muslim world.

‘They may have killed a handful of Western hostages and we know the names of all of those Western hostages, but does anybody know the names of the Muslim hostages?

‘Does anybody know the numbers of the groups of the people – from Ahrar al-Sham, Suqur al Islam, Liwa al Tawhid, or from Al Nusra, or from every single group that they have targeted from the Syrian opposition?

‘Nobody knows because nobody cares.

‘They’ve beheaded – before they ever beheaded any Western hostages –they were carrying around the heads of groups of people like Ahrar al-Sham.’

It is a criminal offence to invite support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, such as Al Nusra. Under PREVENT, universities ‘should not provide a platform for these offences to be committed’.

No opposing view was offered. No one countered Mr Begg’s insinuation that Jihadists from Ahrar al Sham and Al Nusrah are innocent Syrian opposition fighters. This event also appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg

“I don’t understand the word “jihadist”. Britain supported mujahideen (jihadi) units from Afghanistan with Blowpipe anti-aircrafts missile systems in the 1980s against the Soviet Union and trained them in Snowdonia. Britain also supported former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group troops in Libya with airstrikes against the Gaddafi regime. Britain wanted to provide air cover for the Free Syrian Army in August 2013 and supplied non-lethal aid (including body armour and generators) until January 2014. The British-backed FSA was sharing battlefronts and resources with many “jihadi” groups and still does. In 2013 I wrote: Western nations do not recognise Al-Qaeda or its affiliates but many FSA groups and ‘moderate’ leaders not only recognise and respect al Nusra, they refused to condemn the latter when it was designated a terrorist organisation. In an interview after he was wounded founder of the FSA Riyad al-Asaad, said: “The Al Nusrah Front has proved that it is proficient in fighting and has treated the people very nicely…the majority of the people are looking with admiration toward the Al Nusrah Front,” while Ahmed Moaz al Khatib, the respected former head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition said: “The decision to blacklist one of the groups fighting the regime [Jabhat al-Nusrah] as a terrorist organization must be re-examined”. It is once again a stretch to infer any support for al Nusra but the latter has neither posed a threat to the West nor does it follow the same methodology as Al-Qaeda central. Most analysts recognise this. It is also very likely that the 70,000 “moderates” Cameron spoke of in his prelude to bombing Syria would include members of the Islamic Front – the largest component of which is Ahrar al-Sham, arguably the most effective rebel fighting group in Syria. All the groups mentioned have been fighting both ISIS and the regime. The point being made was that ISIS was responsible for beheading both innocent western hostages and local Muslims opposing them. I can’t see why this point would be objectionable. I have shared these views and more with Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ISCR) at King’s College and former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett in a discussion on Syria. Neither of them objected to my thesis.

On more than one occasion I have been involved in trying to secure the release of hostages from conflicts instigated by the US and UK in Iraq.

 

Q. At the same event Mr Begg told students: ‘We’re hypocrites. As terrible as Paris was – and it was terrible – there were no children reported killed. Why are Syrian children not even worth a mention?

‘And then we can also talk about Ankara in Turkey, bombings there, and in Nigeria, and in numerous other places there is no outrage.’

No opposing view was offered.

What are your comments? 

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Should there be an opposing view to expressing outrage about innocent children killed in war? Perhaps the Daily Mail can explain further.

 

Q. On September 29, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Preventing PREVENT ’ talk at SOAS.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. During the talk unopposed panellists all argued against PREVENT and even instructed students on how to actively ‘sabotage’ PREVENT.

Mr Begg accused the West of creating the breeding ground for Islamic State and compared Western governments to rapists.

He told students:  ‘I can tell you what my views on ISIS are. We can go back right to the story of the invasion of Iraq. There was no ISIS before the invasion of Iraq.

‘Who created the chaos that allowed ISIS to breed in? We can talk about that. I’d say, who is responsible? Who took responsibility for all of this? Because what is being done to us on the ground as Muslims here is that we’re being made to pay. We’re told we are responsible.

‘It is almost like the rapist comes along and tells the victim, you should thank me for stopping the rape. This is what is going on to our community. How much, how many laws and measures and how much vilification are we going to have to face every single day?’

Another speaker said the Government were ‘white supremacists’ who wanted to ‘isolate Muslims from the rest of society’.

This event also appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg

“It is true, some of us were literally raped by people acting for and on behalf of western governments. We have repeatedly stated that this happened with the complicity of the British Government.  All of the Guantanamo prisoners have said as much, in addition to many others. I explained this recently on BBC HardTALK. There were also numerous gang rapes and murder of women and children like Abeer Qasim al-Janabi by US troops in Iraq. The rape and sexual abuse in Abu Ghraib is widely documented. I made the rapist analogy regarding torture victims, especially in the case of my friend Shaker Aamer, on mainstream media. There were no objections. British intelligence forewarned about the increased terror threat emanating from the invasion of Iraq while President Obama has recently admitted that ISIS has grown as a direct result. It is also widely reported that Iraqi children were anally raped by US soldiers in front of their mothers. In 2009, Obama blocked the publication of pictures of sexual abuse by US troops in Iraq because he believed it would harm US interests.”

 

Q. Mr Begg also compared Muslims in the UK to Jews before the rise of the Nazis and told students mainstream media, politicians and laws in the UK ‘feel it is OK to demonise Muslims’. He said: ‘We as a community have felt –though there are many differences – like what happened to the Jewish community in Eastern Europe before the rise of the Nazis.

‘Now, nobody’s saying at all, in any way, that Britain is as bad as that. In fact, Britain is probably the best place to be a Muslim right now. But there is no getting away from the fact that the laws, that the media, that the politicians and so forth feel that it is OK to demonise Muslims.’

Mr Begg responded to a question about three British schoolgirls who were radicalised and fled to join IS, by saying:  ‘We keep going on about these three young girls.

‘Whatever the situation may be, they’ve gone to Syria, meaning there is not a threat in Britain.’

This event also appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg:

“I’ve written before: We are in dangerous times. One glance at the history of Jews in Europe will show us how they were targeted because of differences. Their women donned head-coverings, the men wore long beards and clothing; they spoke Yiddish, they ate kosher food, they had separate schools; they celebrated separate holidays and festivals, prayed in separate synagogues and were buried in their own graveyards. The Nazis and their allies all over Europe, caricatured Jews in the most insulting and degrading way. After dehumanising them sufficiently the pogroms followed, and then the Final Solution.

We aren’t anywhere near this point again and I pray we never get there. Anxiety amongst British (and European) Jews is at a record high. With thousands marching in the streets of Germany led by people who impersonate and idolise Hitler, I can see why. But this time it’s the Muslims they’re marching against.

Government advisers on extremism are making similar comparisons. Qari Asim has detailed such views in the Jewish News. He regularly addresses wide-ranging audiences in the UK, including the British army and, has received an MBE for his services.”

The British police said that the girls would not be prosecuted for terrorism if they returned home. That proves they’re not a threat.”

 

Q. On November 2, 2015, Mr Begg also spoke at a ‘Brothers Behind Bars’ talk at SOAS.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

 

Q. The talk was about ‘wrongly imprisoned’ Muslim prisoners. Students in attendance were encouraged by Begg and others to believe that convicted Islamic terrorists had been wrongly imprisoned due to ‘prejudice’ and ‘fabricated accounts’. The talk was headed by a panel of speakers including Mr Begg, all of whom strongly opposed the government’s anti-extremism policies. The panel offered no opposing views and, as such, the event appears to have breached the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg

“I’m a former Guantanamo prisoner who was tortured, cruelly, inhumanly and degradingly treated and imprisoned without trial for three years with the complicity of my own government. A decade later, I was imprisoned once again on trumped up charges as a high-risk Category A prisoner Britain’s top security prison and released before even going to court, after which the same police who arrested me declared me innocent. It’s hard to find anyone to oppose the facts – or the embarrassment. As for those convicted under various terrorism laws each case is unique and based on what I believe to be its (de)merits I offer my view in support of the campaigns – or not. There were representatives of campaigns for these cases present and you can ask them what they said. Most of my time, as usual, was spent explaining the effects of facing anti-terror measures meted out in Guantanamo or facing trumped up charges in the UK – both of which I have had to endure.“

 

Q. At the event Mr Begg spoke about two convicted terrorists jailed for almost 13 years for travelling to Syria to ‘do jihad’ and ‘die as a martyr’ with Al Nusra – the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.

He said: ‘Yes they may have done or said some silly things – as teenagers often do.  But did it mean – as when the police arrested them that there was no threat, the police said. There was no safety to the safety or security of the British public – that with these men, regardless of that statement by the police they are still going to be given 13 years, without the opportunity to actually explain what this was all about. Is that the situation that we’re in?’

It is a criminal offence to invite support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, such as Al Nusra. Under PREVENT, universities ‘should not provide a platform for these offences to be committed’.

Mr Begg’s views about these Al Nusra terrorists were not countered.

Mr Begg also questioned the notion of extremism, comparing Islamic terrorists to Nelson Mandela. This view was not countered.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg:

“I was in prison with these two men and I was relaying, as I had before, the story of the people I met. I said the police reported there was “no threat to the safety or security of the British public” not there was no safety. Also, there is no evidence to show that these men were with al-Nusra and once again the Daily Mail has its facts all wrong. I highlighted the duplicity and contrast of Muslim men convicted for posing no threat versus a white British ex-soldier who was found with nail bombs, weapons and white supremacist extremist literature who was neither described in court as a terrorist nor given a sentence like the Muslim men had received of thirteen years.

 

I did not compare Mandela to anyone. I said we should not be afraid of labels thrown about by the politicians and certain sections of the media. Mandela was a convicted terrorist – in the eyes of the racist apartheid government of South Africa and those who supported it yet, now, there is a statue of him in Parliament Square. This means that people, even Muslims accused of terrorism, can at some point, aspire to greater things.”

 

 

Q. During a question and answer session after the panellists’ speeches, CAGE spokesman Cerie Bullivant asked a question from the audience without declaring his association with Mr Begg and CAGE.

Mr Begg answered without declaring that he works with the audience member.

Mr Begg used the question – about political hostility to those who support left-wing causes associated with Muslims – as an opportunity to criticise David Cameron for calling Jeremy Corbyn a threat to national security. It appears that CAGE was allowed to manipulate the talk by planting its staff as an ordinary audience member.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

What are Mr Bullivant’s comments?

 

Since when has this condition been a prerequisite of a question and answer session?

 

[A question was asked about the UK registered charity, HHGUS – Helping Households Under Great Stress. CAGE was not referred to at all in this question, yet the question was still put forward to us. The Daily Mail would do well to ensure they proof read their questions prior to submission.]

 

[A question was asked about the Revolutionary Communist Group comments at an event. CAGE was not referred to at all in this question nor was CAGE the subject of the comments from the Revolutionary Communist Group. The Daily Mail would do well to ensure they proof read their questions prior to submission.]

 

Q. On October 21, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Students not Suspects’ event at the University of Manchester. At the talk Mr Begg described Prevent as ‘toxic’ and his views were unopposed.

The event appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

Do you have any other comments?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equa
l community relations. Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Moazzam Begg:

“The Daily Mail is wilfully withholding the full picture. I was actually quoting former senior Muslim police officer Dal Babu who said the PREVENT strategy is a “toxic brand“.

 

Q. On October 15, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Students not Suspects’ event at the University of Birmingham.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. At the talk Mr Begg spoke out against PREVENT.

He told students: ‘These new laws are something the Stasi of East Germany would be proud of’ and ‘any right-minded person will be against PREVENT’. He said: ‘We need to call on and speak to our lecturers and teachers and ask them not to take part in this.’

The event appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg

“Challenging and opposing PREVENT is not extremism. It’s actually the opposite. I’ve stated this position often.”

 

Q. On November 22, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Stand up to Racism’ event at the University of East London.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. At the talk Mr Begg spoke out against PREVENT.

He described David Cameron as an extremist. Copies of Socialist Worker were being handed out to students. The edition included a prominent article about Islamic State and the aftermath of the Paris attacks by Mr Begg, which ran from its front page.

In this article, Mr Begg wrote: ‘If you are bombing a country you can expect something to happen’ and ‘Isis doesn’t care what Muslims in Europe think, it is responding to what it sees as an assault on itself.’ These views were not countered.

The event appears to breach the legal duty for universities to facilitate the challenging of extremist beliefs.

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg:

“I said that Cameron has defined extremism as a refusal to believe in or adhere to the British value of the rule of law – amongst other things. I explained that he came to the school my son attends in Birmingham to give a talk on extremism. That son was born while I was held in Bagram and Guantanamo without charge or trial for three years and whom I only saw when he was three. I was being physically and psychologically abused with full knowledge and complicity of the British Government. Cameron was in opposition at the time but since he’s been Prime Minister there has never been any prosecution of the politicians or agents who were complicit in my abuse which included kidnap, torture and false imprisonment – all serious crimes under English law. That is a clear violation of the rule of law and, according to Cameron’s definition – not mine, an indication of extremist beliefs. My views on ISIS are well-known.”

 

Q. On October 20, 2015, Mr Begg spoke at a ‘Students not Suspects’ event at the University of Bradford.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

 

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations.  Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. During the talk, Mr Begg was quoted on Twitter as telling students: ‘The law doesn’t work. You have to embarrass these bastards.’ The talk featuring Mr Begg was not advertised in the days before, and was not publicised on the Students Not Suspects campaign posters. It appears to have been arranged at short notice. This appears to have been a deliberate attempt to prevent the talk being stopped by university authorities.

Why was this event not properly advertised?

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

Moazzam Begg:

“This was in reference to my lawyer in Guantanamo who said when he met me there that the “law doesn’t work, we have to embarrass these bastards” after I’d been detained in a tiny cell without charge for two and a half years. In the end he was right, no one has been released from Guantanamo as a result of any recognised or meaningful legal process. It has been a combination of diplomatic agreements and embarrassment. Even the Daily Mail understands this as it extensively campaigned for my friend Shaker Aamer who endured US torture for fourteen years without trial.”

 

Q. On November 18, 2015, SOAS hosted an event titled ‘Islamophobia and British values’

CAGE research director Asim Qureshi was due to talk, but pulled out at the last minute. A CAGE researcher spoke instead. At the beginning of this event it was stated that CAGE co-organised it.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the talk?

How was the event funded? Was any money paid to the University or Student Union by CAGE, or from the University or Student Union to CAGE?

If CAGE did pay the University or Student Union to hold the event, how much was paid?

Why did Mr Qureshi not speak, as was planned? Was he prevented from speaking?

What are your comments?

What are Mr Qureshi’s comments?

 

CAGE was invited to contribute a speaker to the panel and did not ‘co-organise’ the event.  Mr Qureshi had a double booking and could not attend.

CAGE do not pay for any lectures at outside venues nor do we receive funds. We do this work to encourage better and more equal community relations. Anyone that agrees with our work and wishes to support us can donate here via this link: www.igiveonline.com/campaigns/keepcagegoing

 

Q. On October 2, 2015, NUS president Megan Dunn said the NUS would not work with CAGE, stating: ‘I will not work with Cage, the NUS will not be working with Cage and there will be no NUS resources used to work with Cage.’ She said working with Cage would not be compatible with the NUS’s policies on ‘anti-racism, anti-fascism and how we define anti-Semitism’.

This came after David Cameron said: ‘I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a “beautiful young man” and told people to “support the jihad” in Iraq and Afghanistan, it really does, in my opinion, shame your organisation and your noble history of campaigning for justice.’

Despite Ms Dunn’s comments, a series of ‘Students Not Suspects’ events detailed above were held at universities across the country throughout October organised by the NUS. The talks were also held in conjunction with CAGE and Mr Begg was the star speaker at most of the talks. Leading members of the NUS co-hosted the events with Mr Begg, including Malia Bouattia and Shelly Asquith.

What involvement did CAGE have in the organisation of the Students Not Suspects campaign?

How was the campaign funded? Was any money paid to the NUS by CAGE, or from the NUS to CAGE for the campaign?

If CAGE did pay the NUS for the campaign, how much was paid?

What are your comments?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

 

The NUS membership passed a motion to oppose PREVENT and mentioned that they will work with CAGE on this agenda. Megan Dunn’s comments dissociating NUS from CAGE come after direct political interference from both the Prime Minister as well as the Universities Minister Jo Johnson. So it is not surprising that Dunn has preferred to bow to such pressure and oppose the will of her own membership.

 

Moazzam Begg

“The above speech is the very one I was referring to given by Cameron at my son’s school. Most people who meet with us understand our views and positions – we are neither endorsers of terrorism nor sycophants for governments that continually and disproportionately target our communities. We speak truth to power, call for accountability and seek due process and fairness. That is why they work with us.”

 

Q. CAGE has deliberately misled a company that organises bookings at schools to try to hold an event featuring extremist speakers on November 5, 2015 at Chobham Academy, a school for children as young as three. On November 5, 2015, CAGE ran a talk titled ‘Citizens Not Subjects’ with radical speakers from Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate and the introduction of Sharia law. Also speaking was Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad, who has said homosexuality is a ‘scourge’ and a ‘criminal act’ and spoken in favour of female genital mutilation. He believes that ‘a man should not be questioned about why he hit his wife’. Despite the extreme views of the speakers, they were planned to preach unopposed at Chobham Academy, a school in East London for children aged 3 to 18. The venue was changed a few hours before starting to The Amanah Centre, East London.

A source has told the Mail that the event was booked at Chobham Academy through a company called School Plus, by an individual who regularly plays football at the school site and who is not publically known to be associated with CAGE. We have been told this person misled the booking company, saying the event was related to his football. No mention was made of CAGE’s involvement or the extremist nature of the speakers.

The event was cancelled two days before it was due to go ahead, only after the police contacted the school.

CAGE appears to have deliberately misled the booking company and the school in order to hold a very extreme event at a school for very young children. This appears to have been a sinister attempt to radicalise young Muslims.

Who made the booking for CAGE?

Why was it not disclosed that this was a CAGE event, with a full list of speakers?

What are your comments?

 

On Friday 23rd of October 2015, a CAGE member enquired about the availability of the venue for a CAGE event from a Schools Plus staff member, where he explicitly explained what the event was about and provided a background on CAGE. He explained that the event would be a seminar around the recent court case regarding CAGE and the Charity Commission. The booking was officially made online on the 28th October and a confirmation was received. Subsequently the invoice was paid to secure the booking on the 3rd of November. The following day the CAGE staff member received a phone call from the individual he booked with, saying that he had received a call from someone from the Home Office asking him to cancel the event. It was conveyed to us that the Home Office representative had stated simply ‘this is above his head’ and no reason was given for the cancellation. The individual then added that he had no issues with CAGE, and confirmed that the event would still go ahead as there was no reason to cancel. This was confirmed again after he spoke to his line manager who confirmed he knew nothing about the cancellation. On the 5th of November an email from Schools Plus was sent to CAGE informing us that they had cancelled the event as the venue is not allowed to hold any political lectures even though it was stressed repeatedly that this event was not party-political in nature and was in essence an information sharing event. Following this another email was sent by the Schools Plus representative informing CAGE that he would not be available to speak for a couple of hours, making it extremely difficult for CAGE to find out exactly what had happened. At this point CAGE arranged an alternative venue.

 

See CAGE’s formal letter to the Chobham Academy here.

 

Q. At the event –which was attended by a Daily Mail reporter – CAGE director Dr Adnan Siddiqui said of British Muslims: ‘You ain’t going to be respected unless you stand up for yourselves, unless you’re proud, unless you actually have Izza [pride] which Allah has given you.

‘That does not mean you suddenly say I need to make hijra [migration] and you go to some utopia you think is in the Syria desert. No it isn’t. Stand up and fight here, this is where your fight is.

‘Have backbone, have some understanding, look at history.’

What did Dr Siddiqui mean when he said Muslims in Britain shouldn’t migrate to Syria, but should instead ‘stand up and fight here, this is where your fight is’? At the most extreme, this could be a call to violence.

At the least, it is stoking racial tensions and creating division between Muslims and the supposed ‘others’ that they are being told to ‘fight’ and ‘stand up’ to.

What are your comments?

What are Dr Siddiqui’s comments?

 

There is no evidence of any racial remarks but accusations of “stoking racial tensions and creating division” is ironic coming from the Daily Mail. In fact, any objective and fair minded reader would conclude that this is a means of encouraging British Muslims to tackle the discriminatory nature of the legislation they face in Britain. The assertion by the Daily Mail of a ‘call to violence’ is a dastardly false suggestion and is pathetic to be frank.

 

Q. Azad Ali, head of community development at extremist-linked group MEND spoke about prayers for Jihadist fighters at British mosques

He said: ‘Remember in 2003, 2004, 2006, the different legislations that were coming and I recall the glorifying terrorism act when that was coming and one of the things we discussed with a lot of people, in particular imams and mosques, was, you know, they had a lot of concern.

‘Will we now be able to make dua [supplication prayer] for the Mujahedeen [Jihadist fighters] anymore? Will praising the Mujahedeen [Jihadist fighters] cause us to fall foul of this glorifying terrorism legislation?’ And we were saying, ‘no, it won’t, it is fine’ and everything else. But you know it didn’t work, because the narrative that was being pushed out said that, yes, if you do this, you’re going to end up in trouble, you’re going to fall foul of the law, blah blah blah, all of that kind of stuff.

‘And I ask a majority Muslim audience here, how many masjids [mosques] – and put your hands up – how many masjids [mosques] have you been where you’ve heard the khutbah [sermon] where dua [supplication prayer] was made for the Mujahedeen [Jihadist fighters]?

‘Put your hand up. One, OK, a few more, you all I bet go to the same mosque. That was a joke. But four out of, I don’t know, there’s probably a hundred people here. And this is the state of affairs that we’re in.’

Is it appropriate for mosques in Britain to be praying for Jihadist fighters?

What are your comments?

 

Moazzam Begg:

“As explained in point 7, what are jihadist fighters? Is it a problem to pray for, as an example, the 70,000 ‘moderate’ fighters who British MPs voted in favour of supporting, not knowing that they consider themselves to be mujahideen when they fight and martyrs (shuhada) when they die. This is again demonstrates the Daily Mail’s simplistic and ignorant understanding of the matters at hand.”

 

 

[A question was asked about the UK head of Hizb ut-Tahrir. CAGE was not referred to at all in this question, yet the question was still put forward. The Daily Mail would do well to ensure they proof read their questions prior to submission.]

 

Q. At the end of the talk, an audience member asked: ‘Why was the venue changed?’ Dr Siddiqui said: ‘Ask PREVENT ’ and ‘because of British values’. Mr Mohamoud said: ‘The white elephant in the room,’ an apparent racial slur. Mr Begg said: ‘Ask PREVENT. The venue I think was changed at the last minute because of PREVENT ’ and ‘Pressure was placed on the initial place that we booked and this pressure was from the outside, so this is another evidence that we are a case in point of ourselves of PREVENT being unduly forced on organisations that simply don’t understand.

‘They were told because its politics even though the place in question teaches politics. So it’s another fight for CAGE.’

What are your comments on the comment ‘white elephant in the room’, an apparent racial slur?

What are Mr Begg’s comments?

What are Mr Mohamoud’s comments?

What are Dr Siddiqui’s comments?

 

The term white elephant means “a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.” That, would describe PREVENT perfectly. The reference to the white elephant, was playing on the campaign symbol of the High Speed 2 (HS2) lobby. It is ignorant and malevolent to spin this as a ‘racist slur’.

 

Q. The fact that CAGE is holding university events where speakers are espousing views unchallenged could be seen as inappropriate given the views CAGE has previously expressed, specifically regarding Mohammed Emwazi, who was described by CAGE spokesman Asim Qureshi as a ‘beautiful young man… extremely kind, extremely gentle’. CAGE claimed British security services were to blame for Emwazi’s radicalisation.

What are your comments?

Moazzam Begg:

“CAGE officers did not say Jihadi John is a beautiful man – they said he was a beautiful man, just as his university lecturer described him as once a “lovely, lovely boy”. CAGE rejected his actions and called for him to be brought to justice. Nonetheless, CAGE has accepted mistakes were made during that episode and has accepted responsibility after commissioning an external review which concluded the affair was mishandled. My own position on Jihadi John and ISIS have been clear from the start.”

 

(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.)