The NUS should not work with CAGE

The NUS has an outstanding history of pursuing racial and gender equality within university campuses. So why is it working with CAGE?

 

“Female genital mutilation is not only acceptable but obligatory…Non-Muslim prisoners can be taken as slaves.”

When CAGE’s Asim Qureshi was asked by Andrew Neil of the BBC if he agreed with these views, Asim leaned forward and responded: “Look, I’m not a theologian.”

The façade began to drop. Asim Qureshi had devoted his life to staunchly opposing the human rights abuses of torture and drone strikes – therefore it seemed like some areas of human rights, such as the stoning of women, were just a no-go-zone for his (and CAGE’s) disapproval. Asim Qureshi’s ability to side-step these questions, fooling the public about his and CAGE’s extremist beliefs, began to lose its pace, and the world came to see them for what they are – terrorist apologists.

Enter the NUS. The NUS, unlike our government and Amnesty International, has seen CAGE and Asim Qureshi’s public appearances and yet still thinks CAGE an acceptable partner to work with on civil liberty issues. What we are seeing here is an attempt by CAGE to gain further influence around the universities and Students Union.

The real question is why the NUS would choose to work with CAGE.

It has been made apparent on social media that the NUS motion to work with CAGE was passed at NUS conference without any formal voting procedure. I am sure that many students in Britain will be just as shocked as I am to learn that the NUS has teamed with an organisation that has refused to condemn the ISIL beheadings. I would also hope that the NUS will investigate internally the voting procedure of this notion to partner with CAGE.

The NUS has an outstanding history of pursuing racial and gender equality within university campuses, but all of this risks being called into question by working with CAGE. Although tied to CAGE with the common thread of an anti-PREVENT narrative, I have to ask: is it really worth working with an organisation that would like to undo all the work progressed by the NUS for gender equality? Are CAGE the only organisation you can work with on this particular issue? Is the bar really that depressingly low?

If you have doubts over the tones of this piece, or feel it is exaggerated, I urge you who seek to protect the rights of women and the plurality of religious beliefs on campus/society to: listen to the speeches of CAGE-linked cleric Haitham al-Haddad; to watch the public appearances of CAGE figurehead Asim Qureshi.

At Quilliam we have made it our policy to not share a policy-making platform with CAGE. The only platform we share is for debate, which can’t happen if a simple question such as ‘do you believe the Jews are descended from pigs’ seems to throw their representatives into a mental lock-down.

The NUS must break its ties with an organisation that makes abhorrent statements about human rights and which is linked to extremist clerics that do so. The NUS shouldn’t feel that it is only extremist organisations that share their concerns about civil liberties with regards to counter-terrorism. And the NUS must not wait until the damage is done to its reputation before it distances itself from CAGE.

Haras Rafiq is managing director at Quilliam. Follow him on Twitter

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