For over two decades Anjem Choudary tarried on street corners, outside mosques and shopping centres, embassies, and police stations with a cohort of thawb and burqa-donning supporters behind him, with one hand armed with a megaphone and the other forcefully signalling the apostates, the ‘kafir’, those who reject Allah and willingly accede to decadence, disgrace and man-made law. The infamous preacher, unanimously condemned by both the media and by the majority of Muslim communities in the UK, has been regarded as a menace to society for his ruthless effort to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of the UK. This week, however, Anjem Choudary has been jailed for 5 years and six months for inviting others to support the Islamic State (ISIS) – breaching section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Despite the influence that Choudary has had in the growing torrent of Islamist narratives in the UK, and despite the fact that he and his fervent gang of accomplices have had an immense role in the ensnarement of young students in Universities into the trap of Islamism, notably influential advocacy groups who are known for championing ‘safe spaces’, human-rights and religious equality in universities have, surprisingly, remained closemouthed.
@UK_CAGE have you got a statement on Anjem Choudary? What are your views? Was he rightly prosecuted under counter terrorism laws?
— Benjamin (@benjid87) August 17, 2016
CAGE is arguably the most glaring case of such a tongue-tied response by an advocacy group. This group’s stated aim is to “empower communities impacted by the War on Terror” and, over the course of a decade, has become particularly known within universities for its attempts to highlight the “growing islamophobia” in both UK universities and the UK as a whole, its attempts to undermine widespread misrepresentations of British Muslims, and to quash anti-muslim bigotry. However, CAGE has received most notoriety through its attempts to highlight what it deems to be a shameful anti-islamic strand fastened into the heart of the UK’s – Anti-Terrorism Prevent Strategy.
Whilst CAGE has been quick in the past to condemn the arrest of a King’s College London (KCL) student because it was apparently motivated by Islamophobia (pictured below), CAGE has not only failed to condemn people such as Choudary, but it also has the nerve to deem it “unnecessary” to comment on the arrest of a man who has been at the helm of two organisations which have contributed to an epidemic vilification of the typical British Muslim. This vilification has largely been caused by the role he and his organisations have had in augmenting a misrepresentation that the typical muslim is a thawb donning, caliphate-craving fundamentalist at odds with western values.
The silence of CAGE is particularly emblematic of a dominant narrative gripping large swathes of leftist ideology – if you are Muslim then you must necessarily be a victim, a victim placed within a power-structure which has institutionalised discrimination courtesy of the most powerful in society. The narrative, supported by the regressive left with its overt fetishisation of cultural ‘identity, claims that this is supported not only by the fact that there are increasing degrees of hostility towards Muslims here in the UK but it’s also supported by the fact our Government’s foreign policy is somehow discriminatory towards Muslims as a whole. This is reflected in the fact that the Government has participated in wars which unfairly target Muslims, particularly Muslims in the Middle-East – supposedly an obvious reflection of institutionalised islamophobia structured par excellence. Given that Muslims are necessarily the victims, sensitivities have to be raised and standards of behaviour accordingly lowered to take into account all the oppression they face.
This is a very bigoted view, and one that continues to homogeneously smear Muslims as devoid of autonomy – Muslims whose reactionary behaviour can be patronisingly explained away as mere offshoots of a Western power-structure that will never tender to them. Thus, even the widely condemned Anjem Choudary will not be impeached and is he is able to evade CAGE’S bad books.
However, should we be surprised that CAGE is an expounder of this kind of narrative that paints British-Muslims as victims? After all, this is the advocacy group whose research director, Asim Qureshi, called the disgusting ISIS mercenary Jihadi John “a beautiful young man” and, whilst Jihadi John may well be a murderer, his country had obviously failed him. This “failure” is supported by the fact that his country’s Government has, with increasing concentration, fostered a society that leaves the typical Muslim communally alienated.
The director of CAGE, Moazzam Begg, outrageously claimed that he felt the current situation that British Muslims face is comparable to the treatment that Jews faced during the Third Reich. Begg has spoken in universities unchallenged at least 11 separate occasions last term – spieling various myths about how the Government is prejudiced against the British Muslims, how PREVENT is used to spy on Muslims, and how convicted terrorists such as Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar are innocent because they actually never joined ISIS.
However, a lot of these claims are not just disputable – they’re perverse, particularly the last claim. Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar are not mere victims of a piece of deeply islamophobic anti-terrorism legislation. Whilst it may well be true that both men had not joined ISIS, Begg forgot to mention that both men joined a group affiliated to ISIS: those well-known moderates, al-Qaeda.
The National Union of Students (NUS), a confederation which accounts for 95% of all higher and further education unions in the UK (and has considerable influence in University SU policies across the UK), is publicly noted for its partnership with CAGE. This eerie cooperation is known to extend into joint campaigning through their “NUS’ Student Not Suspects Campaign” and, most disturbingly, having CAGE included in its NUS manifesto.
The NUS has, in many ways, veered away from being a confederation that passionately defended equality within university campuses into a confederation deeply marred by an awry tolerance for illiberal principles and ideologies for the sake of multiculturalism and cultural relativity. Accordingly, the NUS is quick to condemn government policies that they deem to be discriminatory against muslims but, by the same token, like CAGE, are remarkably silent when it comes to the conviction of Islamist propagandists. CAGE and the NUS must be called-out for this hypocrisy.
Bringing the spotlight back to CAGE, whilst we are, as a society, quick (and right) to condemn radicals such as Choudary, why are we being complacent about calling CAGE out? CAGE mustn’t merely be called out for its unpardonable hypocrisy in its commitment to ending anti-muslim bigotry, but it must also be called out for remaining eerily close-mouthed on the arrest of a rogue whose organisations have singlehandedly fostered university environments that are horrifically conducive to Islamism.
CAGE must be called out for pedalling a distasteful view that Muslims (including Choudary) cannot be responsible for their support of violent terrorist groups such as ISIS. It speaks volumes that an advocacy group largely based on discussing Counter-Terrorism legislation and overthrowing anti-muslim bigotry can be so silent. This silence does, whether we want to admit it or not, and no matter how big or small, signify a sympathy for Islamists – an ideology which many of us have longed-believed is what is actually lurking behind their political agenda.This cannot and should not be tolerated, and CAGE should be rightly impugned and appropriately condemned by us as a society in the same way as we challenge, criticise and condemn other individuals and groups for either concocting or condoning extremism.
Benjamin David founded Conatus News in 2016. He currently works as an editor for Parliamentary Review.