I haven’t been able to give this due attention, but I want to give it some. Here is the resignation statement of Gita Sahgal, from Amnesty International.
Why has Amnesty gone on record stating that jihad is not antithetical to human rights? From Human Rights For All who, with others, have been interrogating Amnesty over its treatment of Gita Saghal and close association with Moazzam Begg:
“The rationale and call for ‘defensive jihad’ runs through many muslim fundamentalist texts. It is precisely ‘defensive jihad’ that the Taleban use to legitimise its anti human rights actions such as the beheading of dissidents, attacks on minorities, attacks on schools and religious shrines and the public lashing of women. A similar logic based on ‘defence of religion’ is used by the Christian right to justify the killing of doctors providing abortion services as well as by Hindutva fundamentalists to justify their violent attacks against Muslims and Christians in India.”
Amnesty is prepared to compromise its commitment to women and innocent civilians to uphold – what? the right to wage religious war along lines which discriminate on some authoritarian cleric’s whim? That is how jihad is widely understood by those who execute it. Somewhere along the line Amnesty’s ambitions changed – or else it has proud fools at the helm who can’t acknowledge their detrimental behaviour if it is pointed out to them by the wrong people (those who espouse ‘Western liberal values’, perhaps). I can’t claim to get it, or understand where Amnesty’s headed now, but I think it has gone astray for the reasons I’ve set out. It’s really hard and really unnerving to see this unfold.
If Begg, this supporter of violent and oppressive jihadis (most notably the cleric and terrorists’ inspiration Anwar Al-Awlaki), is the best Amnesty can find to send on the road to represent victims of human rights abuses, then there’s something wrong with Amnesty. To me it’s pretty unambiguous.
Amnesty – and Reprieve which is similarly implicated and underscrutinised – must resist falling for jihadi victims of human rights abuses and becoming seduced into participating in grander ideological wars. This will undercut their support. They need to draw lines round their human rights work, for the sake of maximising support for those whose human rights have been trampled – support from people like me. This includes maintaining a professional distance from jihadi sympathisers like Moazzam Begg, who deserve their defence, but from whom a platform and funding should be withheld.
The initial recruitment of Begg was bad enough – as usual I’m putting more stock in Amnesty’s subsequent reactions to its critics – the most dedicated of which have been women who oppose fundamentalism – which has been that of a big, self-satisfied organisation which considers itself unimpeachable. Dangerous.