Human Rights,  Your View

Defensive jihad?

Guest post by Sarah

Many Harry’s Place regulars signed the petition to Amnesty International following the suspension of Gita Sahgal. Claudio Cordone of AI has now written a response (pdf) to this petition, in a move which seems to have been relatively overlooked by bloggers.

There are some things in this letter which I’d commend. It is comparatively clear and direct, at least by contrast with the very ill-judged early responses from Amnesty to Sahgal’s concerns. But it includes the following controversial assertion:

Now, Moazzam Begg and others in his group Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence. Are such views antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them – and indeed those of us working to close Guantánamo have a range of beliefs about religion, secularism, armed struggle, peace and negotiations.

Some bloggers on the Right have picked up on this detail in predictably hysterical and overblown fashion. But why even invoke that idea of ‘defensive jihad’? I assume the phrase ‘defensive jihad’ potentially embraces all sorts of positions and actions, some of which most of us would find innocuous and some of which we’d find horrifying. The letter firmly says it would oppose any actions which go against human rights– such as killing civilians– so we may gloss the phrase ‘defensive jihad’ as in fact meaning ‘defensive jihad in its benign aspects’. But why use the phrase at all? The passage makes me curious to know more about this ‘range’ of beliefs about various contentious issues Cordone refers to in the final sentence I quote.

Finally– if you are a member of Amnesty UK, don’t forget that the deadline for voting in the elections to the Board is Friday 16 April.

(Hat tip: Dawg’s Blawg)