Solidarity With Cage

Matt Carr looks at the British state and media demonization of Cage. Matt Carr is a journalist in Derbyshire who blogs about politics, books, history, cinema, music and other things that interest him. He is also the author of four books. He blogs at Matt Carr's Infernal Machine.

What do the British media and government do, when presented with the possibility that the transformation of a British Muslim into the latest ‘face of terror’ may have been partly due to his treatment at the hands of the security forces? Essentially 4 things: a) Completely ignore any evidence that might support such a case b) wilfully distort these arguments made by those making the case c) smear and discredit those who have publicized the evidence and made these arguments and d) give full and uncritical support to the security services.

All these elements have been present in the hysterical and McCarthyite attempts to present the Muslim advocacy group Cage as a fellow-traveler of ISIS, following its role in revealing the identity of ‘Jihadi John’. Firstly there was Kate Burley on Sky News, asking Cage spokesman Cerie Bullivant ‘ what level of harassment by the security services justifies beheading?’

That was only the opening gambit in an interview that has nothing to do with journalism and reveals Burley to be little more than a smug, gimlet-eyed inquisitor who is either too dense to understand the arguments that Bullivant was making or too concerned with doing what her superiors demanded of her to actually give a damn.

At least twice Bullivant said he was not ‘justifying’ the beheadings. Burley completely ignored these answers, and asked him if he ‘condemned’ them, not once, but twice. All in all it was a disgrace, and I really don’t blame Bullivant for walking away from it, leaving the idiotic Burley grinning at her own brilliance as if she had just proved some great point. The Huffington Post also joined in the chorus, with a piece quoting Boris Johnson, who described Cage’s comments as an’apology for terror’ and declared that:
It was incredible that people could stand up and pretend that somehow it was the fault of the security forces for trying to apprehend and impede these guys and that that could somehow cause them to be radicalised.

Well the Independent made very similar suggestions back in 2009, when it reported that young Muslim men were being subjected to the same kind of treatment that was directed at Mohammad Emwazi, and no one called them apologists. But it’s clearly a different matter when such allegations come from Cage. The HuffPost listed seven ways in which ‘ Cage tried to blame British anti-terror police for forcing Emwazi to flee to Syria – and behead aid workers and journalists.’

Note the deliberate conflation of two completely different events. At no point has Cage ever suggested that the security forces were directly responsible for the beheadings. Here are two of the quotes from Asim Qureshi’s press conference that the HuffPost listed as evidence against him:
Suffocating domestic policies aimed at turning a person into an informant but which prevent a person from fulfilling their basic life needs would have left a lasting impression on Emwazi.

‘A narrative of injustice has taken root. A narrative of impunity that there is no accountability for the way in which our security agencies operate. Unless we arrest that narrative, we are just going to see these things happening over and over again.’

Now perhaps you don’t agree with these arguments. Perhaps you think that Cage is overstating its case and leaving things out. Fair enough, but don’t accuse its spokesmen of saying things that they never said. In addition to a failure to understand the difference between words like ‘justify’ and ‘explain’, many of Britain’s scribes are apparently unable to recognize the past tense, such as Qureshi’s much-quoted description of Emwazi as a ‘beautiful young man’.

OK folks, I know that some languages don’t have a past tense, but English does, and Qureshi was using it. But just to clarify, he was saying that ‘Jihadi John’ WAS a beautiful young man, not that he is one NOW. Got that? Alright let’s move on. Because now Qureshi himself is being depicted as a ‘jihadist’ – a word which always means ‘terrorist’ in British mediaspeak, because a video has surfaced - I wonder from where? – of 2006 Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in which he said:

‘When we see the example of our brothers and sisters fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies. When we see Hezbollah defeating the armies of Israel, we know where the solution is and where the victory lies. We know that it is incumbent upon all of us, to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West.’

Well that doesn’t make him a ‘terrorist’ I’m afraid, let alone a cheerleader for ‘Jihadi John.’ Lots of Muslims think that it’s a political/religious obligation to support oppressed Muslims in Chechnya or Kashmir, just as they did in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, when Western governments and their allies supported such actions. NATO also worked alongside ‘jihadists’ in Libya, just as the Western/Gulf State/Turkish axis did in Syria before ISIS reared its ugly head.

So smearing Qureshi as a ‘jhadi baddie’, as the Sun called him might be a useful tool for a witchhunt, but it doesn’t tell us much about Cage, or jihad, or terrorism. All these differences were ignored in today’s piece in the Daily Mail on Cage’s ‘odious’ press conference yesterday, which railed against the ‘ apologists for terror and the do-gooders who fund them.’

The Mail condemned the Cage spokesmen because ‘ rather than express an apology – or even a smidgen of regret – for having failed to turn him away from the path to barbarism, what we witnessed was almost an hour of excuses, accusation and invective against Britain, British society and the British state.’

The Mail didn’t explain how Cage should have turned him away from this ‘path’ given that Emwazi was not even on it when Cage was in contact with him. Rather than consider whether Cage’s arguments about Emwazi’s mistreatment might have had any truth, the Mail journalist chose not to mention them at all.

Instead it delivered a torrent of bitter invective against Qureshi, Moazzam Begg, and John Rees ( ‘ a good example of how the hard left has allied itself with radical Islam’). It described Cage as ‘ a sophisticated organisation that knows how to exploit a democratic system which enshrines free speech and human rights in order to support terrorists’ without giving any evidence of how it ‘supports terrorists.’

It also condemned the Anita Roddick Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Trust for making charitable donations to Cage, and claimed that ‘British security services fear the rise of an Islamic State terrorist threat in Britain is helped by the sympathetic campaigning of “human rights” groups such as Cage.’ All this was topped off with a quote from an ‘Eminent former counter-terrorist official’ who said ‘The outlook is very, very gloomy – far worse than it was after 9/11. And it is not helped by organisations such as Cage being basically apologists for slaughter.’

So criticizing the security services means that you are ‘apologists for slaughter’, according to …oh the security services, the government and their lackeys in the media. We can expect a lot more of this from these fearless truthseekers in the days and weeks to come, and we need to stand up to it and condemn it. Because a little nuance and critical thinking is required here. Whatever views its members may have about British foreign policy, Cage has been a powerful advocate for British Muslims who have suffered very real victimisation at the hands of the British security services.

The issues that these efforts have raised matter not only from the point of view of human rights and simple justice; it is also entirely counterproductive for British society to ignore them. Because if the security services are blackmailing, bullying and alienating British Muslims who then turn up sometime later chopping off heads in Woolwich or Syria, then common sense demands that we recognize that contribution and prevent it

Of course there are those who would prefer not to talk or even think about such things; who would rather continue with the divisive and dangerous policies like Prevent, anti-toddler radicalisation programs and Trojan horses; who only want to work with opportunists like the government’s pet Muslim think tank, the Quilliam Foundation; who would prefer to talk about ‘death cults’ and ‘preachers of hate’ rather than consider that the actions of the British state may have contributed to the mess we’re in.

But the rest of us would be really stupid to follow their example. And we shouldn’t allow Cage to be shut down and tainted with the terrorist brush. We need its voice to be heard, even if we don’t like what it says.


  1. This is exactly how the British security services and media responded to the conflict in Ireland. They demonised and marginalised anyone who tried to explain to the point of extra judicial execution on the streets, as happened with the lawyer Pat Finucane. The collaboration of the two can be seen in recent disclosures that the security services including MI5 were allowing sexual abuse of minors to continue while the media said nothing. The media might claim in its defence that it did not know about it. But it is the vocation of the media to discover these things. A medical professional claiming he could not treat cancer because he could not find it would be laughed out of the profe3ssion.

    The French Marxist Louis Althusser placed the media in the category of Ideological State Apparatus and the security services in the Repressive State Apparatus category. The way the media and the security services have dovetailed to silence Cage shows the extent to which the Althuserrian distinction has been blurred and what we now see after distillation of funcitons is a fusion of the two.

  2. They apply the similar caged strategy on the Scotland people by refraining them from the manifestation of presentation in Politics. If someone wants to gets involved in politics, the British government imposed a policy of 'surveillance through social media and other secret services. ' This is a sheer violation to the freedom of expression and speech.

  3. I was was going to publish on this but this is a much better article, I heard LBC's resident lefty on the radio interviewing the Cage lad, and it was an outrage full of the crap Carr writes of.

    The first thought that came into my head was if any young idealistic muslim heard this, they would conclude democratic avenues are closed off so why not join the jihadis.

    They would imo be wrong and might live to regret it, but by then its to late of course.

    One can only conclude by slamming the doors shut, those who take the mainstream media line on this, are consciously or not, acting as propagandists for the Jihadis.

  4. If you can't beat the argument beat the age old policy that works when you control all apparatuses, State dependent and supposedly State independent....We've experienced this for years and we've had to suffer the 'Boris Johnson' like defenders of the State...It was the SDLP who continually called for Nationalists to support the British Security Forces even when they were fully aware that their constituents were being murdered by the same security forces. I never fully understood that but always guessed that security force dirty tricks didn't stop at SF's door only.

  5. "if any young idealistic muslim heard this, they would conclude democratic avenues are closed off so why not join the jihadis."

    And why would they do that Mick? Pick up any newspaper, listen to any elected politician (in the UK or US at least), they will tell you the jihadis are not Muslim,are nothing to do with Islam, and our Muslim neighbours hate them.Do you know differently, or is your trotter in it again?

    Carr used the '4 things the media do' to great effect himself (on radio 4 i think) when demonising anyone who takes a different view to himself. If you create caricatures of your opponents view, you have lost.

  6. DaithD

    Yes, US and UK politicians say a lot of things, unlike you it seems I believe most of it is crap. Of course these young people are Muslims, what do you think they are Mormons?

    Far to many Mosques in the UK have been financed by the Saudis, Wahhabism is the same brand of islam as Isil's and Bin Laden's and we should not ignore that fact.

    Of course the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not support Isil, but many do not question the source of their Mosques funding nor how the Al Saud's reign at home.

    Most Muslim's see the West's involvement in the middle east, Afghanistan and and Pakistan as disastrous and they're not wrong.

    These young people obviously feel especially strongly about this, when they confined their work to bringing charity to the region they gained mass support from within the mosques. When they saw it was UK government policy to oppose the Assad regime. They took what they saw as the next 'logical step' and reached out for the nearest vehicle to help them join that fight. Isil were already all over the web, ready to scoop them up.

    Indeed groups like Isil and Hizb ut-Tahrir were already encouraging young muslims to fight in Syria. they acted as facilitators in much the same way as the Communist International did during the Spanish civil war. The only difference being some of us regard the latter as a 'good war' and the Syrian intervention bad.

    (Although the British government thought otherwise bringing a law in to make it illegal to join the international brigades which i think still stands today.)

    My main point, which you ignore preferring to talk about my trotters.(We don't do pork;) Was Idealistic young people with a cause almost always reach for the nearest viable vehicle to hand to engage in their cause. To demonise them and theirs is more likely to have the exact opposite result to that which was intended. Any parent with a teenage child should know that.

    Thus to hector Cage for telling it like they saw it, could only have resulted in the mainstream media acting as a recruiting sergeant for Isil.

    What we need to question is why Cage was given so much publicity on this issue.

  7. Mick, read my post again. On this small but important subject, please examine who is carrying the main media and government line, and who stands in opposition to it- where is my view presented that isnt in a way to knock it down and frighten those who hold it? There is an MP Micheal Meacher, who was prepared to write and article saying the American government did 9/11, another (Norman Baker) saying Mi5 may have killed a civil servant (Dr.Kelly) , yet not one will say ISIL have an valid Islamic basis.I just wondered why then Muslims would be supposed to join ISIL, who *clearly aren't Muslim*, and not the FSA, who are Muslim and in the field?

    Saudi Arabia added annotation to their Korans, specifying who/what the verse refered to (e.g people led astray , people who incurred Gods wrath ) ,and people in the UK went ballistic over it, neatly forgetting that centuries of Islamic teaching acknowledged that was who/what the verse refered to, incidently its page one of the Koran, kind of set the tone methinks.