Human Rights

Gita Sahgal on “Innuendo”

Michael Weiss writes (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Begg does not hide his own Islamist convictions. In his memoir, “Enemy Combatant,” he recalls his interrogation at Guantanamo, in which he credits his emigration to Afghanistan to his desire “to live in an Islamic state—one that was free from the corruption and despotism of the rest of the Muslim world.” The Taliban, Mr. Begg insists in his book, were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years.” Elsewhere he has cited and sold the works of the “charismatic scholar” Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, erstwhile mentor to Osama bin Laden.

Amnesty continues to defend its affiliation with Mr. Begg and Cageprisoners. Last week, on a Canadian radio program, Amnesty’s interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone described Mr. Begg’s politics as benign, saying there was so far no evidence to suggest that the organization should severe ties with him.

This is nonsense, says Ms. Sahgal via telephone in her home in London. “Amnesty has messaged him as a human-rights advocate . . . He was in Taliban Afghanistan. He was not a charity worker.”

Especially galling for Ms. Sahgal is the fact that she only accepted her job after insisting to Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty, that she be allowed to address the Begg alliance.

“I told her, ‘If you don’t give me the power to clean up this Begg situation, I won’t take on the gender affairs assignment. Widney encouraged me to write a memo on it and even came past my office late one night while I was writing to discuss it. There was no internal resistance against this. So I was promoted with full support. Then, when the Sunday Times story broke, everything I uncovered was deemed ‘innuendo.'”

Almost three weeks have passed since the Sunday Times article was published.

Sahgal remains suspended.

As for Moazzam Begg, his ever faithful follower Andy Worthington is still welcome at Amnesty branches and student societies. He will spin for Begg in this countrywide tour for his film.

Here’s a synopsis:

The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Shakeel Begg of the Lewisham Islamic Centre is one of London’s most radical imams. He preaches jihad to students:

Shakeel Begg, another radical cleric, recently urged students at Kingston University, southwest London, to wage jihad in Palestine. In a tape-recorded speech obtained by The Sunday Times, Begg, who is a Muslim chaplain at Goldsmiths College, part of London University, said: “You want to make jihad? Very good… Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists.

For Shakeel Begg, even speaking to anti-terrorist officers is to betray Islam and work for the devil:

It is with much sadness that I read Tawfique Chowdhury’s speech to the anti-terrorism officers in Wales, which he brazenly posted on an Islamic blog. I was deeply shocked and appalled by his enthusiasm for collaboration with a body that has failed its own war against Islam and the Muslims at home and abroad. It is deplorable for a graduate from the prestigious Islamic University of the Prophet’s city – the first Islamic State – where the subject of ‘Aqida is emphasised the most, to declare himself an ally of the West against Islam, not even by choice, but naturally. It is ridiculously outrageous for a Muslim speaker to lure the anti-terrorism officers into using him and other religious leaders against the Muslim community. This is not to say that we should not work to prevent unlawful violence. In fact, many have been at the forefront of this work, without signing a deal with the devil, or joining any sort of alliance, be it natural or otherwise, with the brutal, cunning and oppressive anti-terrorism workforce.

In light of this, I urge Tawfique Chowdhury to publicly and unequivocally retract his irresponsible and reckless speech, in order to save himself and his institute from disrepute. The failure in doing so will only reaffirm the public sentiment in the UK that he has clearly taken sides with the enemies of Islam the Muslims.

What a voice for human rights!

Amnesty International could draw a line under this whole affair by reinstating Gita Sahgal and ending all promotion of Moazzam Begg and his jihadi cronies.

That seems unlikely right now.