Cage: I hate to say we told you so

Many who should know better have coddled Cage in recent years


Earlier this week I found myself in a debate with a volunteer from Amnesty International over the charity’s promotion of Cage and specifically the former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg. The discussion revolved around the suitability of Cage – a shady Salafi PR outfit – as a partner for Amnesty in the latter’s campaign for the right to a fair trial.

The argument was put to me that, whilst Amnesty might not agree with all of the views espoused by Cage, they do share common ground  on the right to justice and against the disgrace that is Guantanamo Bay.

My own argument was simply to ask whether it would be acceptable to partner with an organisation of the British far-right in a similar fashion. Would it really be kosher to share a platform with Nick Griffin simply because of ‘common ground’ over his and  our opposition to, say, the war in Iraq?

Of course not, and I suspect my interlocutor now realises this – ever since Cage’s unsavoury nature became undeniable yesterday afternoon, his tweets defending the group have mysteriously disappeared. Or not so mysteriously; for who really wants to be on the record publicly defending a group which referred to Mohammed Emwazi (aka Jihadi John) as a ‘beautiful man’?

Nor can yesterday’s Cage press conference be defended on the basis of putting Mohammed Emwazi’s actions in their proper ‘context’. Contemplate for a second how silly (and how sinister) it would have been to talk about the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik in a similar fashion – not as a ruthless killer but as a misunderstood victim of the system. As a friend put it this morning, the ‘MI5 made me do it’ narrative is also an insult to all of those who fall foul of the immigration system yet do not resort to beheading people.

Many who ought to have known better have coddled Cage in recent years and will no doubt feign surprise at news that the group isn’t so much a human rights group as an Islamist activist outfit. Well I’m sorry to say this but: we told you so. As Noor Elahi wrote on these pages back in October 2014:

“Even though CAGE say they knew Britons were being held hostage in Syria, at a time the wider public did not, they argued that the UK had nothing to fear from Muslims travelling to Syria to fight. As the crimes of Britons in ISIS and the Al-Nusra front became clear, this analysis was quietly dropped, replaced by the claim that British Muslims were being criminalised collectively, or that particular excesses of the Islamic State’s actions were incompatible with sharia.”

One hopes that after yesterday’s grim spectacle Amnesty will distance itself from Cage, just as it would any other group that was so closely aligned with (and so ready to make excuses for) dangerous extremists.

Similarly, the left should draw a clear line of separation between itself and groups like Cage when campaigning for human rights. As Noor put it in her piece:

“[While] It is entirely correct that the ethical abomination of Guantanamo Bay be campaigned against…What the left should never do is whitewash the ideas and beliefs of people like CAGE and Moazzam Begg. Their agenda is to be an advocacy group for Islamic fundamentalism in British society, and to use the left as the soap powder for that washing.”

After yesterday, that seems a fairly uncontroversial point. But what a shame it’s taken so long to get here; some of us have been cautioning against Cage for years.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

99 Responses to “Cage: I hate to say we told you so”

  1. Mark

    On Wednesday, on LBC, they covered the story (between 2pm and 4pm – the presenter will be nameless). Prior to the press conference, the presenter seemed to be talking about CAGE as if they had never heard of them, giving the listener the absolute impression that they were a proper “Human rights organisation and charity,” with no questioning at all. I found this a bit weird. Surely a journalist would have at least some knowledge.
    The question they were putting out to listeners was along the lines of whether the security services had got it wrong, which was taken from the CAGE website. Again, I frowned. What was going on here? It’s ok to play devil’s advocate, but that didn’t seem to be the case, and this was turning into CAGE propaganda.
    Then came the press conference, of which they played the first ten minutes before a news break.
    After, came the phone-in, but along with that was the presenter’s own “experience” of when big cameras went up in Birmingham and “Surely that would make the people in the community uncomfortable.” Again, this was not “devil’s advocate” but personal thinking. Surely this presenter was not feeling that CAGE were right about the security services being the bad guys? There was nothing else being put forward after all. Then I went into a shop.
    After, I heard the last call-in, with a lady who was angry about the whole thing. After she had her say, the presenter said, “But what I’m saying is, should the security services have a re-think?” Certainly not devil’s advocate as the call had been ended, and that was the end of the show.
    I was fuming at the ineptness and lack of awareness of it all. It absolutely was CAGE propaganda – unwittingly.
    At least the next presenter on the following show was angry at CAGE and made it known.

  2. Matthew Blott

    It’s patronising to call this a great post when James is just stating what should be the bleeding obvious. Hopefully the wheels are coming off the Cage bandwagon. A few days ago Diane Abbott was urging people to join her with a typical selection of Islamists and Trots at a UAF rally yet last night on This Week she had the Cage spin as her moment of the week. Earlier in the day Asim Quereshi had a testy interview with the often Islamist friendly John Snow. The Guardian almost covered the story correctly but spoiled it by referring to Asim Qureshi as “an experienced researcher into the effects of the west’s efforts against terrorism” rather than the Islamist gobshite he really is (still, since it’s given the organisation plenty of space over the years for its propaganda I can understand the Graun’s reluctance to go for a full frontal assault). I don’t see how Amnesty can continue its current relationship with Cage or how Moazzam Begg has any credibility left (if he even had any to start with) as a human rights campaigner.

  3. Mark

    Yeah, I noticed Diane doing that, fully aware that she is a UAF supporter. It’s a bit mixed up, and I wonder if people are stupid, the organisers are clever, or I’m missing something.

  4. Roger Day

    Isn’t the person in the middle of the video something to do with the SWP?

  5. Johnny Wong

    “My own argument was simply to ask whether it would be acceptable to partner with an organisation of the British far-right in a similar fashion. Would it really be kosher to share a platform with Nick Griffin simply because of ‘common ground’ over his and our opposition to, say, the war in Iraq?”

    Says the man who, after insisting Labour should cuts links with the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and criticising the aforementioned oganisation, now speaks at HJS events.

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