At Amnesty, something stirs.
It is the realisation that upholding concepts of due process and women's rights may not be best served by strolling along to Downing Street hand in hand with Moazzam Begg, a Salafi Islamist who has attended Jihadi training camps in Afghanistan and Bosnia and attempted to enter Chechnya at the height of the conflict there.
Gita Saghal, head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty's International Secretariat has lambasted her own organisation's relationship with Begg, who has joined with Amnesty in the UK in the campaign Counter Terror With Justice. Ms Saghal comments: "As a former Guantanamo detainee it was legitimate to hear his experiences, but as a supporter of the Taliban it was absolutely wrong to legitimise him as a partner,”. As I found when I heard Begg address Norwich Amnesty last year, he was also far from honest about his own background, whilst his Cage Prisoners group circulated very different literature to that which they circulate amongst Islamist audiences. An examination of just who Cage supports in this country should have alerted even the most gullible as to exactly where they are coming from.
Amnesty was correct to support Begg during his period of extraordinary rendition and mis-treatment in US custody. But getting into bed with him afterwards is ludicrous, as Gita Saghal explains. We strengthen Salafi trends and currents in Britain (and elsewhere) at our peril, and certainly at the peril of women's rights. For those useful idiots on the last century left who find excuses for Mr Begg and will wish to refute the accusation that he supports the Taliban, consider these comments from his 2006 autobiography:
"When I went to Afghanistan, I believed the Taliban had made some modest progress - in social justice and in upholding pure, old style Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries. After September 11 that life was destroyed" (p.381).
Or this hilariously bad exchange with American interrogators in Guantanamo:
‘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..….’ (p.214).