"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Jihadism

KENAN MALIK SAYING IT LIKE IT IS WITH HANIF KUREISHI


Kenan Malik and Hanif Kureishi author of My Beautiful Launderette discussing free speech, identity politics, Islamism, multiculturalism, racism etc. 45mins well spent.

 

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MYTHS AND REALITIES OF 9/11


By Kenan Malik  

 

A recent poll by the Pew Trust  showed that virtually every American can remember where they were on the morning of 11 September 2001. Most recognize the profound changes that 9/11 has wrought to the nation.  But America is divided down the middle on the question of whether the USA brought the attack upon itself. Forty-three percent of those polled thought that 9/11 was caused by US ‘wrongdoing’; 45% disagreed. Perhaps no set of statistics better expresses the confusions and ambiguities that still surround 9/11, the chasm between an acknowledgement of the significance of the event and the uncertainties about what it signifies. The Pew poll figures are particularly striking given the fear and suspicion of Muslims revealed in other polls and by the furore over the so-called ‘Ground Zero mosque’.

Such ambiguity and unclarity is perhaps inevitable given that we still live in the shadow of the attack on the Twin Tower and continue to feel the reverberations, both of the event and of the West’s response to it. But the uncertainty also derives from the way that the very nature of the narratives we weave around historical events has changed. During the Cold War, the faultlines that divided the world were broadly ideological. Today, as the philosopher Tzvetan Todorov observes in his book The Fear of Barbarians, the world is structured not so much by ideology as by emotion, and in particular the emotions of fear and resentment. Anti-Western sentiment results from a sense of ‘humiliation, real or imaginary’ which has bred a sense of resentment, particularly within Muslim communities, towards Europe and the United States, which are ‘held responsible for private misery and public powerlessness.’   And in the West, public attitudes and political policy have been shaped by fear of terrorism, of immigration and of the ‘other’, and resentment about the loss of power and prestige abroad, and of the supposed erosion of ‘Western’ culture at home. The result has been a series of narratives about 9/11 that have combined a yearning for certainty with a profound sense of ambiguity.

For many the story of 9/11 is the story of a West under siege from the barbarian hordes, of a global struggle between good and evil. The idea of the ‘clash of civilizations’, first popularized by the American political scientist Samuel Huntington a decade before 9/11, has, in this view, come to define the decade after. It has become a means through which to express the sense of fear and resentment of which Todorov has written, a way of understanding notions of belongingness and enmity in emotional rather than ideological terms.

The argument for a clash of civilizations might provide the certainty of a world divided by sharp lines. It is nevertheless a deeply ambiguous claim, not least because it is a worldview shared with Islamists, for whom too it provides a sense of identity and belonging by setting up a cartoon enemy. ‘There is no doubt that the clash of civilizations exists’, Osama bin Laden told an Al Jazeerajournalist a month after 9/11. ‘No true believer would doubt these truths.’

It is also a worldview at odds with reality. Atrocities such as 9/11, 7/7, or the Madrid train bombings are viscerally shocking and haunt our memories. They are also relatively rare. ‘Why is it so difficult to find a suicide bomber these days?’ was the provocative headline to a recent article in the journal Foreign Policy. The headline might have been glib, but the article, by sociologistCharles Kurzman, raised important issues. The real question we need to address, Kurzman observed, is not why there is so much terrorism but why there is so little. Given how easy it is to sow terror it is striking how infrequent terrorist attacks really are. ‘If terrorist methods are as widely available as automobiles, why are there so few Islamist terrorists?’, he asked. ‘If there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, many of whom supposedly hate the West and desire martyrdom, why don’t we see terrorist attacks everywhere, every day?’ Even in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where terrorist attacks have become woven into the fabric of life, the devastation has not matched the levels of slaughter experienced, say, during the 1990s in Rwanda, Sudan, the Congo and Yugoslavia.

When US Navy Seals tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden earlier this year, there was great jubilation. His death, however, has had barely an impact upon the war on terror, largely because he was already a marginal figure. We have come to imagine al-Qaeda as the monstrous spider at the centre of an international web of terrorism, the grand orchestrator of the worldwide jihad.  In fact, al-Qaeda barely exists as an organization and has not orchestrated a major successful terrorist attack for more than five years. Phillip Zelikow is professor of history at the University of Virginia and the executive director of the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks on the United States (the ‘9/11 Commission’), the bipartisan committee created by the US Congress to investigate the 9/11 attack. ‘The most serious threats’, he observes in an afterword to the original report,  ‘are posed by a relatively tiny number of people, fewer in number and less well organized than the production crew of any one of Hollywood’s larger films.’

None of this is to diminish the historic significance of 9/11, nor to underplay the barbarism of jihadi attacks from Kabul to Casablanca, from Mumbai to Mombasa, nor yet to deny the need robustly to challenge such terror.  It is however, to put such horrors into context. Terrorists derive their power not just from the carnage they cause, but also from the response of others to that carnage. In transforming the activities of a ragtag band of Islamists into a ‘global jihad’ and a ‘clash of civilizations’, the Western response to 9/11 has helped give credibility to jihadist groups and to sustain them.

Over the past decade conflicts, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Chechnya to the Yemen, and attacks, from 9/11 to 7/7, from Bali to Stockholm, have all become packaged together as different expressions of a ‘global jihad’. In fact these various clashes and conflicts constitute not a single war but a loose collection of local struggles and resentments, ‘a matrix of ongoing, overlaid, interlinked and overlapping conflicts’ as British writer Jason Burke, one of the more perceptive observers of contemporary jihadism, puts it in his new book The 9/11 Wars. These are conflicts with myriad different causes, myriad different actors. But they have come to be seen as part of a single struggle largely because of the narrative of ‘global jihad’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ promoted by both sides.

One key consequence of all this, as the historian Stephen Howe recently observed, has been the ‘reinvention of Islam’, both ‘by many of its adherents and by those who view it from outside, and often with fear and hostility’. Where once people might have seen themselves – and been seen – as Indians or Pakistanis or Bangladeshis or Turks, today they are more likely to see themselves, and be seen, simply as ‘Muslim’. And where once it was accepted that Islam comprised a myriad different beliefs and practices, now there is an increasingly insistence that there can only be one way of being ‘authentically’ Muslim.

This process had begun in the 1980s, well before 9/11, and was driven by many factors including the erosion of secularism, the rise of the politics of identity and the institutionalization of multicultural policies. Over the past decade, however, as Howe observes, the process ‘seemed suddenly to accelerate, to become global and ubiquitous’, to establish the idea of a worldwide Islamic ummah as a new kind of identity and attachment, and one ‘essentially uniform… across both time and space.’ The myth of the ‘clash of civilizations’ has helped transform the reality and make it more like the myth.  Or, rather, it has transformed people’s perceptions of reality and in so doing transformed their actions too.

The myths of the global jihad and the clash of civilizations have helped fuel wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilize Pakistan, and reinforce autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. They have eroded rights and liberties, at home and abroad, from the imposition of draconian domestic anti-terror laws to the use of torture, from the obscenity of extraordinary rendition to the affront that is Guantanamo Bay.  The recent revelations that the CIA and MI6 both made use of Colonel Gaddafi’s security forces to interrogate and torture supposed jihadis (including Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, military commander of rebel forces in Tripoli, and a member of the Transitional National Council) should have come as no surprise to those who have recognized the depths to which Western governments have already sunk in their prosecution of the war on terror. The very principles that the war on terror is supposed to defend are the very principles that the war terror has trampled upon.

If one narrative portrays 9/11 as an act in a global conflict to bring down Western civilization, another views it as an expression of a global struggle against Western imperialism. In an infamous piece for the London Review of Books, the Cambridge classicist and historian Mary Beard wrote of ‘the feeling that, however tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming.’  9/11, she suggested, was wages of sin for the West’s ‘refusal to listen to what the “terrorists” had to say’. Almost every Islamist attack has been met with similar kinds of ‘explanations’. Terrorist attacks may be unpalatable, runs the argument, but they are merely perverted responses to Western imperialism.‘The principal cause of this violence’, as the radical writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali put it after the 7/7 bombings in London, ‘is the violence being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world.’

The idea that there is anything ‘political’ or ‘anti-imperialist’ about such terror is to degrade the meaning of the real struggles people have fought – and are still fighting – to free themselves from imperialism. It is also belied by the actions of the terrorists themselves. The terrorists who, in July 2007, parked two car bombs outside Tiger Tiger, a central London nightclub, or Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the suicide bomber who attempt last year to blow himself up in the midst of Christmas shoppers in Stockholm, or the Islamist who set off a remote-controlled bomb in a Marrakesh café earlier this year – all were acting not as political soldiers driven to fury by Western policy, but as political nihilists motivated by a hatred for the world around them and a deep indifference to the consequences of their actions. However far one might stretch the concept of ‘political’, it is still impossible to imagine how flying planes into an office block, or blowing up commuters, or targeting Christmas shoppers or coffee drinkers could be any kind of political response. They are no more a response to Muslim grievances (real or perceived) than the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in America was a response to the perceived evils of the US government.  Those who pretend otherwise are both demeaning real anti-imperialist struggles and providing spurious moral cover for vicious, nihilistic violence.

The uncertainties and insecurities now felt by Western societies, the ease with which politicians have been willing to betray basic liberal values, the emergence of fear and resentment as dominant sentiments – all have made Islamists appear more potent than they are. They have also generated mindless, shocking responses – such as Anders Breivik’s homicidal rampage through Oslo and Utoya in the name of defending ‘Christian Europe’ from Muslims and ‘cultural Marxists’. As I wrote in Bergens Tidende shortly after the massacre, Breivik, like jihadists, was ‘driven not so much by political ideology as by a desperate and perverted search for identity, a search shaped by a sense of cultural paranoia, a cloying self-pity and a claustrophobic victimhood’.  He was shaped by the same myths that produced both 9/11 and much of the response to it.

In the decade since 9/11 politicians and intellectuals have not only exaggerated the threat facing our societies but have also lacked the moral and political resources to respond to it. That is why the real challenge of 9/11 comes not from without but from within.

(This is a longer version of an essay published in the Norwegian newspaperBergens Tidende)

http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/myths-and-realities-of-911/


Review of From Fatwa to Jihad: ‘Why Salman Rushdie’s book was burned’, by Maureen Freely, Washington Post.


In the opening pages of this dense but fascinating polemic, Kenan Malik describes how the fatwa against Salman Rushdie changed his life. The Indian-born son of a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, Malik had grown up in Britain amid “Paki-bashers” and the racist National Front. It was racism that had driven him into far-left politics as a student, but it was the Enlightenment ideals of equality and social justice that he took with him when he graduated. Malik became a research psychologist and occasional journalist with a commitment to activism.

In January 1989, he was shocked when 1,000 Muslims marched through the northern city of Bradford and ceremonially burned a copy of Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” in front of a police station. Almost overnight, he writes, the image of that burning book became an international “icon of the rage of Islam.” Yet it made no sense to Malik, who had organized anti-racist protests in Bradford three years earlier. Where had the rage come from? And why was it dressed in religious clothing?

He received his first answer from a man Malik identifies only as Hassan, a former Trotskyite and an acquaintance who had become disaffected with the “white left” and with the fearful and obsequious Muslims of their fathers’ generation. Hassan saw a “need to defend our dignity as Muslims” so that no one – “racist or Rushdie” – could trample on it. Hassan had become an “errand boy to the mullahs,” Malik writes, “inspired by bookburners, willing to shed blood for a thousand-year-old fable that he had never believed in.”

In the chapters that follow, Malik charts the circuitous route by which Hassan and so many others found solace in a virulently anti-Western, political Islam that bore little relation to the faith of their immigrant parents, for whom religion was “deeply embedded [but] never all-consuming,” expressing “a relationship with God, not a sacrosanct public identity.” If Britain now has a problem with homegrown suicide bombers, it is, he asserts, because of policies that have not only impeded integration but have taught an entire generation of immigrants that they are not truly British, that they do not – and never will – belong.

Malik looks favorably upon the United States, which in his view sees itself as a nation of immigrants and so offers a positive narrative for newcomers. Britain, however, has kept immigrant communities separate. Rather than address immigrants directly, it has handed them over to the care of self-appointed community leaders who use their positions to enrich themselves and push a conservative religious agenda. It is they who have created a breeding ground for Islamist fundamentalism.

Malik argues that jihad as we understand it is a thoroughly modern concept, forged not just in the mountains of Afghanistan but in Western cities. He shows how the media and the wizards of geopolitics stoked the fire from the outset, with the book-burners of Bradford becoming pawns in a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Each had been investing ambitiously in organizations in Britain and elsewhere to promote its own extreme brand of Islam.

Though by issuing a fatwa the Ayatollah Khomeini got the upper hand in the Rushdie controversy, Britain’s Muslims did not take orders from any imam or ayatollah. The bombers who took part in the coordinated attacks on London’s transportation system in 2005 were influenced by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But, Malik says, they were full of Western narcissism – middle-class, entitled, disinclined to deny themselves modern pleasures. Their ease with contemporary mores cut them off from Islamic traditions. “Today’s jihadist does not submit himself to the will of the collective,” Malik writes. “Only through death do jihadists join their imagined community.”

After beginning his story with a book-burning, Malik ends it with the bombing nearly 20 years later of the London publisher of Sherry Jones’s “Jewel of Medina,” a novel about the prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife. The Rushdie book-burning in 1989 sparked intense debate over the reach of free expression, especially when it offends religious sensitivities. By the time of the 2008 bombing, however, it was generally accepted that free speech must take into account Britain’s many diverse religions – which sounds likes a move toward greater tolerance and integration.

But in Britain the issue is more complicated than that. The nation lacks an equivalent of the First Amendment, and though it has a tradition of free expression, there is no clear legal defense for it. Since 2008, it has been illegal to incite religious or racial hatred. Because the law is vaguely worded, it can be used against anyone who criticizes religion in the public domain. Britain’s unelected Muslim leaders were among those who proposed the law, and they continue to have a powerful influence on the definition of religious hatred, both in the courts and in the media.

Few writers have untangled the paradoxes and unintended consequences of political Islam as deftly as Malik does here. But in the end his real subject is not Islam. It is Britain’s mismanagement of immigration and how this has led to the weakening of its purchase on Enlightenment values and, most particularly, free expression. Though confined to the British case, the book offers a cautionary tale that will speak to everyone concerned about the worldwide erosion of civil and human rights after Sept. 11, 2001.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/07/AR2011010706482.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+kenanmalik+(kenanmalik.com)&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail


Kenan Malik: The Making Of A Moral Nihilist


Over the past twenty years, I have lived through countless bombs in London. IRA bombs, neo-Nazi bombs, Islamist bombs. And yet, there was still something viscerally shocking about Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly’s attempt to bring carnage to the streets of Stockholm. The fact that Sweden has been largely free of terrorism can, I imagine, only magnify that sense of shock. So, are there any lessons that Stockholm can learn from the experience of a city like London?

The first lesson is the need flatly to reject the fiction that the bombing was a response, however perverted, to some sense of political grievance. Every such bombing is followed by an attempt by an army of commentators to rationalize it by suggesting that it was the inevitable result of a sense of injustice created by Western foreign policy or by anti-Muslim attitudes in the West. The audio message sent to a news agency shortly before the bomb went off, claiming that Sweden would be punished for failing to act against cartoonist Lars Vilks’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, and for the country’s 500-strong presence in Afghanistan, has provided perfect fodder for such rationalization. In fact the bombing was no more a response to Muslim grievances (real or perceived) than the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in America was a response to the perceived evils of the US government.

Three years ago, Islamists parked a car bomb outside a central London nightclub. Thankfully it was discovered and defused before it detonated. Had the attack been successful, the bomb could have created far greater devastation than the 2005 attacks on the London underground. Just two minutes’ drive from that nightclub were the Houses of Parliament and the Foreign Office. Yet the bombers chose not to make a political statement (albeit a perverted one) but instead parked their deadly load outside a building full of party goers.

Like those London bombers, al-Abdaly seems to have been driven not so much by political fury as by a hatred for the world around him and a deep indifference to the consequences of his actions. However far one stretches the concept of ‘political’, it is nevertheless still impossible to imagine that setting out to murder dozens of Christmas shoppers could be any kind of political response to the Swedish authorities’ attitudes either to Vilks or to Afghanistan.

Much has been made of al-Abdaly’s British connection. He studied for a degree in physical therapy at the University of Bedfordshire and lived in Luton, a small town north of London with a reputation for being a magnet for Islamic extremists. It was here that the men responsible for the 7/7 bombings met before going onto London. And many suggest that it was here that al-Abdaly became radicalized. The local mosque claims that it expelled al-Abdaly for his extremist views.

The idea of Luton as a vipers’ nest of radical Islamism is vastly exaggerated. A handful of Islamic radicals in the area have made a lot of noise, attracting the attention of the press, the police and politicians. But there is little evidence that it is a major recruiting school for jihadists. In any case, ‘radicalization’, especially for a loner like al-Abdaly, might mean little more than trawling the internet for suitable jihadi websites or listening to some firebrand preacher.

At the same time, the obsession with ‘radicalization’ misses the point about someone like al-Abdaly. The real question is not so much how he came to be radicalized, but why someone, who by all accounts was intelligent, articulate and integrated, came to find such a medieval, murderous ideology so attractive. To understand that we need to look not so much at extremist preachers and websites as at public policy, and in particular the policy of multiculturalism.

In Britain, and elsewhere, multiculturalism has led to the de facto treatment of individuals from minority communities not as citizens but simply as member of particular ethnic groups. In the name of multiculturalism, governments have abandoned their responsibilities for engaging directly with Muslim communities, effectively subcontracting out those responsibilities to so-called community leaders, who are often the most conservative voices. As a result, religious and Islamist voices have been given new legitimacy and come to be seen as the authentic voice of Muslim communities, while more progressive, secular movements have frequently been sidelined.

At the same time, many second-generation Muslims have found themselves detached from both the Muslim traditions and institutions of their parents, which they have often rejected, and from the wider secular society that insists in viewing them simply as Muslims. The consequence is that a few get drawn to the extremist Islamist groups through which they discover a sense of identity and of belonging to a world-wide gang. In a country like Britain, multiculturalism did not create militant Islam, but it helped create a space for it within Muslim communities that had not previously existed.

In the wake of the Stockholm bombing, it is imperative for the Swedish authorities not to follow the British template, or to imagine that ‘community leaders’ somehow speak for all Muslims. It is particularly important not to give an inch to Islamist demands over free speech and supposed Muslim sensitivities. The more that liberals concede on such issues, the more that Islamists gain a spurious moral legitimacy, and the more that the likes of al-Abdaly imagine that theirs is a noble cause.

But if it is important not to concede to Islamists on questions of free speech and liberties, it is equally important not to concede to the right on the questions of immigration and of Islam. Al-Abdaly’s actions will inevitably unleash a cacophony of calls for a clampdown on immigration and for stricter controls on Muslims. They must be resisted. A Muslim immigrant might have been responsible for the bombing. But it makes no sense to blame either immigration as a process or Islam as a religion. The same perverse logic that leads many on the left to view religious bigots as the authentic voice of Muslim communities, and to insist that we should accede to their reactionary demands, leads many on the right (and not just on the right) to blame Islam as a faith, or immigrants as a group, for the crimes of lone extremists like al-Abdaly, and to imagine that narrow-minded intolerance is the answer to fanaticism and terror. Cracking down on immigration or discriminating against Muslims to appease the far right would be as illiberal and as irrational as banning material deemed offensive to Muslims to appease the Islamists.

The Stockholm bombing revealed how easy it can be to cause mayhem and disruption in an open, urban, society. It is the arbitrary nihilism of Islamic terrorism that makes it so terrifying. Yet al-Abdaly’s actions should also remind us how infrequently such terror occurs. Society is based on trust. The aim of the bombers is to undermine such trust by sowing fear. We should not let them.

After al-Abdaly blew himself up, a passer-by named Pascal, a trained medic, came running over to help. ‘My first thought was that the man was a terrorist’, he said. Nevertheless, he tried to save his life. ‘I removed a Palestinian scarf from his face to free his airways and attempted CPR, but it was too late’, Pascal told reporters. In such moral courage and basic human instincts lie the best responses to the nihilism of the suicide bomber.

http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/expressen_bomb.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+kenanmalik+(kenanmalik.com)&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail


Have Amnesty International Broken With Cage Prisoners?


The latest development in the saga concerning Amnesty International, Moazzam Begg and Cage Prisoners is a statement criticising Amnesty from Salman Rushdie.

What is perhaps more significant politically, is whether Amnesty have done the decent thing and broken off relations with the Jihadi supporting Cage Prisoners. Begg, Director of Cage Prisoners, was due to speak at Amnesty’s London HQ on Tuesday 16th February. Instead Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes of the Guantanamo Justice Centre took centre stage following the showing of Worthington’s 2009 film “Outside The Law: Stories From Guantanamo

Begg withdrew, and a statement from him was read to the meeting by Witney Brown of Amnesty’s International Secretariat. It was noticeable that although some clapped this statement ostentatiously, others either managed a polite tapping, or sat on their hands entirely. There were certainly no voices raised in opposition to Begg’s absence.

In March local Amnesty groups in Bradford (9th) and Norwich (10th) are putting on meetings in the tour Worthington and Deghayes are conducting. Given the nature of Cage Prisoners, and the somewhat dishonest way in which certain literature is distributed at some of their appearances and not at others, I would hope that Cage are not welcome at either of these events.

Over to you Amnesty………..

http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2010/02/have-amnesty-international-broken-with-cage-prisoners-.html

Let’s just look at one of those links again shall we Amnesty….


Moazzam Begg, Jihadism and Norwich Amnesty


by Paul Stott

On 20 October last year I saw former Guantanamo Bay inmate and Director of Cage Prisoners Moazzam Begg address the Norwich branch of Amnesty International, as part of Amnesty’s ‘Protect the Human Week’.

However well intention Amnesty International are, and I think they are correct in their call for due process and in their opposition to Guantanamo and similar institutions within Afghanistan, there is a real risk here in terms of their credibility.

Begg outlined the process that led him to be taken in what he referred to as extraordinary rendition – from Islamabad, to Bagram in Afghanistan, then to Camp Echo in Guantanamo Bay. He argued too much attention has gone on to the Cuban facility, when the bigger issues are around Bagram, secret detention and proxy detention using sites in countries such as Libya and Syria.

This message was appreciatively received by Norwich Amnesty, who had earlier campaigned hard for Binyamin Mohamed, also held by the Americans until February 2009. It is fair to say this was a well meaning, rather middle class audience but I fear one that is also slightly gullible.

Putting aside the case of Mohamed (who we are supposed to believe travelled to the centre of the world’s heroin trade in order to receive treatment for drug addiction) Begg and Cage Prisoners were not entirely straight with Norwich Amnesty.

Firstly lets take the Cage Prisoners promotional material at their stall that evening. It centred on their film and glossy leaflets promoting their work. Yet when I attended Islam Expo in June 2008, literature with official Cage Prisoners leaflets (upstairs at the Olympia event) – included prison details for that well known ‘prisoner of conscience’ Abu Hamza, convicted of eleven charges in February 2006, including soliciting murder.

This cannot be explained away as contrary to Cage Prisoners policy, as a glance at the prisoners list on their website demonstrates

Are would be shoe bomber Sajid Badat, arms importer Andrew Rowe or Abu Qatada prisoners of conscience? Not from where I am sitting. This aspect of Cage Prisoners work was entirely absent from the Norwich event. Put simply, Moazzam Begg and his group present one set of issues to a white middle class crowd from Norwich’s ‘Golden Triangle’, and another one to their fellow Islamists.

Secondly there is the issue of Begg himself. In Norwich he stated that his rendition was due to a UK intelligence services dossier re his visits to Bosnia in the early 1990s. This told the Americans he was a threat. Nothing more was said that evening, yet anyone with even a cursory glance of Begg’s book ‘Enemy Combatant’ can see this is far from being the whole truth.

In 1993 Begg visited a Jamaat-e-Islami training camp in Afghanistan, a camp still operating some four years after the Soviets had left the country. He then visited an adjoining Arab camp (p.50-57).

He explains to his future wife that something may happen to him if he goes to Bosnia (p.59) before going to a Mujahideen camp in the country (p.66-67). He subsequently plans a trip to Chechnya – not exactly the sort of place you go to for a Club 18-30 – but is stopped on his way out of the UK by the security services. He attempts to travel there anyway, but is refused entry to Georgia (p.87) so cannot reach his desired destination.

You do not have to be Sherlock Homes to take the view that following 9/11, Begg’s presence – in either Afghanistan or Pakistan – is likely to be of considerable interest to the security services.

Like Amnesty I disagree with how those same security services treated him – in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. But it is easy to feel just as uncomfortable with the sight of ‘progressive’ political activists queuing up to support someone who is by his own words a follower of the Salafi (early) way of Islam (p.331 of his book). What price ‘due process’ in a society run by Moazzam Begg?

In Norwich Begg made it clear that Cage Prisoners will continue, even if Guantanamo Bay closes. That in a way is no surprise – it has a wider objective. Some of those objectives are very far from the types of beliefs progressives claim to uphold.

The last word however, should go to Moazzam Begg himself, and this unintentionally hilarious exchange with two CIA interrogators from his memoirs (p.214):

‘I wanted to live in an Islamic state – one that was free from the corruption and despotism of the rest of the Muslim world’.

– ‘So you chose the Taliban?’

‘I chose Afghanistan. I admit I have made mistakes – but had it not been for 9/11, I think I would still be living happily in Afghanistan’

– ‘Probably as a member of Al Qaeda or the Taliban’

‘I knew you wouldn’t understand. The Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years. You weren’t in Afghanistan – not before nor during the Taliban. Child sex, rape, looting, robbery, murder and opium production only ended when they took control. ‘

– ‘And in came amputations, floggings and executions..….’