James Bloodworth got into a discussion with an Amnesty volunteer last week on the question of whether or not it’s a good idea to collaborate with groups or people who stand for bad things, with Cage being the example of standing for bad things. That’s a difficult and unavoidable question for all movements and campaigns and groups, because there are always going to be differences, and it’s not generally easy to know where to draw the line.
But Cage has made it easier now…
My own argument was simply to ask whether it would be acceptable to partner with an organisation of the British far-right in a similar fashion. Would it really be kosher to share a platform with Nick Griffin simply because of ‘common ground’ over his and our opposition to, say, the war in Iraq?
Of course not, and I suspect my interlocutor now realises this – ever since Cage’s unsavoury nature became undeniable yesterday afternoon, his tweets defending the group have mysteriously disappeared. Or not so mysteriously; for who really wants to be on the record publicly defending a group which referred to Mohammed Emwazi (aka Jihadi John) as a ‘beautiful man’?
Yes, that makes it a whole lot easier.
Nor can yesterday’s Cage press conference be defended on the basis of putting Mohammed Emwazi’s actions in their proper ‘context’. Contemplate for a second how silly (and how sinister) it would have been to talk about the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik in a similar fashion – not as a ruthless killer but as a misunderstood victim of the system. As a friend put it this morning, the ‘MI5 made me do it’ narrative is also an insult to all of those who fall foul of the immigration system yet do not resort to beheading people.
Many who ought to have known better have coddled Cage in recent years and will no doubt feign surprise at news that the group isn’t so much a human rights group as an Islamist activist outfit. Well I’m sorry to say this but: we told you so.
But there are still people who think Islamist activism is more or less the same kind of thing as human rights activism. I can never really understand how they manage to think that, but they do.
One hopes that after yesterday’s grim spectacle Amnesty will distance itself from Cage, just as it would any other group that was so closely aligned with (and so ready to make excuses for) dangerous extremists.
There’s that word again. I don’t care that they’re “extremists”; I care that they’re theocratic murderers and rapists and enslavers and colonialists of the most bloodthirsty kind. If they were “extremist” Quakers for instance, we wouldn’t have this problem.
But that’s a quibble. On the larger point, James is quite right.