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Posted by on Apr 4, 2010 in International, Media, Politics, Society, War | 0 comments

Amnesty International Has NOT “Endorsed Defensive Jihad”

Andy McCarthy is making stuff up again:

Former Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg is a committed jihadist and unabashed supporter of the Taliban. … In the fashion of CAIR — a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood formed to support its causes, such as Hamas, in the camouflage of a “civil rights” organization — Begg shrewdly realized he could win fawning admirers and allies on the Left by posing as a human rights activist. So he formed a group in Britain, Cageprisoners, which claims to be a civil rights organization [while] promoting the Islamist agenda. …

… [The] disconnect between terror- and sharia-promotion, on the one hand, and civil rights, on the other, has weighed heavily on some authentic civil rights activists. After complaining for a couple of years to no avail about Amnesty International’s support for Begg, Gita Sahgal (head of AI’s “gender unit”) finally went public, pointing out that “to be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”  For her trouble, Sahgal was reprimanded by AI and ultimately suspended. AI’s treatment of Sahgal prompted a “Global Petition” by some international human rights supporters, protesting AI’s action. …

In response to the petition, AI Secretary-General Claudio Cordone has issued a letter in vigorous defense of AI’s collaboration with Begg and Cageprisoners. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism has the story, here. In the letter, Cordone states AI’s position outright: advocacy of “jihad in self defence” is not antithetical to human rights. That Islamists reserve unto themselves the right to determine when Islam is, as they put it, “under siege,” and when, therefore, forcible jihad is justified, is plainly of no concern — only actions America’s self-defense are worthy of condemnation.

Nowhere in this screed does McCarthy provide a link to Cordone’s letter. Of course not. If he had done that, it would have been clear that McCarthy distorted and misrepresented Cordone’s meaning almost beyond recognition.

Here is the entire three-page letter.

Here is the specific part from which McCarthy draws his claim that Cordone says defensive jihad is not antithetical to human rights, and, further, that Cordone declares this to be Amnesty International’s official position:

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[.] …

The above is an exact quotation, and if you saw only this exact quotation, you could certainly take it to mean what Andy McCarthy says it means.

But that’s why God made context. I am now going to quote the entire larger portion of Cordone’s letter in which the above exact quotation occurs:

This brings me to what is the central issue in this controversy, which, I think you agree, is how do human rights organizations work with others, and in particular how do they give voice to victims without promoting all their views?

This is a familiar debate within Amnesty International. We have been weighing relationships with individuals and organizations for decades. We do not claim to always have the best answers, and we value the best advice we can get internally and from partners like you. We know from experience that judgement calls in
this area are difficult, but here are some considerations.

There are victims with whom we would not associate, while unreservedly campaigning against any abuses of their rights. For example, we denounced the waterboarding of Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, the Guantánamo detainee credited with the 9/11 and other atrocities. But we would never share a platform with someone like him who openly espouses an ideology predicated on hatred and the killing of civilians – in short, views that are clearly antithetical to human rights. The answer in this case is easy.

But in other cases the answer is not easy. For example, should we not work against the death penalty with an influential actor like the Catholic Church because we disagree with their stand on women’s reproductive right and homosexuality? There are valid arguments for and against. We chose to work with the Catholic Church against the death penalty.

Let’s look now at our joint advocacy for the Guantánamo detainees with Moazzam Begg and his group, Cageprisoners, which has earned us accusations of being pro-Taleban and promoting violence and discrimination against women. Most recently we spoke together with him in a coalition of NGOs to persuade European states to receive Guantánamo detainees who were cleared for release but risk further human rights abuses if returned to their home countries. The tour has ended and we have received initial positive feedback.

Moazzam Begg is one of the first detainees to have been released from Guantánamo and to disclose information when much of what was going on in the camp was shrouded in secrecy. He speaks powerfully from personal experience about the abuses there. He advocates effectively detainees’ rights to due process, and does so within the same framework of universal human rights standards that we are promoting. All good reasons, we think, to be on the same platform when speaking about Guantánamo.

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. I am afraid that the rest of what we have heard against Moazzam Begg include many distortions, innuendos, and “guilt by association” to which he has responded for himself.

I wish to stress to you as I have done repeatedly in public that if any evidence emerges that Moazzam Begg or Cageprisoners have promoted views antithetical to human rights, or have been involved in even more sinister activities, Amnesty International would disown its joint advocacy. However, also at play is the old principle that anyone is innocent until proven guilty – not only in a judicial sense. To disown our work with Moazzam Begg on the basis of what we have been presented so far would betray basic principles of fairness which are also at the heart of what we stand for.

Do you still think Cordone is endorsing Moazzam Begg’s advocacy of “defensive jihad” or declaring it to be “not antithetical to human rights” or not inconsistent with the mission of Amnesty International?

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