Sunday, April 04, 2010

Amnesty International Defends Jihad "In Self Defence"

First some background.

Back in February, Melanie Phillips wrote about Gita Sahgal--
Sahgal, head of Amnesty’s gender unit, spoke of her concerns about Amnesty’s relationship with Cageprisoners, an organisation headed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo internee. Since his release in 2005, Begg has spoken alongside Amnesty at a number of events and accompanied it to a meeting at Downing Street. Saghal wrote to Amnesty’s leaders:

‘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.

Her views have been endorsed by Amnesty’s Asia Pacific director Sam Zarifi, who has said in an internal email to his staff:

‘We should be clear that some of Amnesty’s campaigning ... did not always sufficiently distinguish between the rights of detainees to be free from torture and arbitrary detention, and the validity of their views’.
Powerline adds:
Begg isn't just Britain's most famous Taliban supporter. According to Steve Emerson and Tom Joscelyn, he is also a friend and supporter of Anwar al-Awlaki, imam to some of the 9/11 hijackers, and an inspiration to both the Christmas Day bomber and the Fort Hood mass-murderer.
Now things really get interesting.

The reaction of Amnesty International was to suspend Gita Sahgal--and then when a petition protested Sahgal's treatment, the head of Amnesty International, Secretary General Claudio Cordone, put in his two cents:
On February 28, Cordone responded with a letter defending AI's work with Begg and Cageprisoners. Begg "speaks powerfully from personal experience" about the abuses at the U.S.-operated Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, Cordone wrote, and advocates detainees' due process rights within "the same framework of universal human rights standards that we are promoting."

Cordone added that Begg and Cageprisoners' advocacy of "jihad in self defence" is not antithetical to human rights and that Begg is the victim of "many distortions, innuendoes and 'guilt by association' " charges. [emphasis added]
In response, Gita Sahgal's supporters pointed out the incongruity of the head of a group which claims to advocate human rights defending "jihad in self defense":
The call for ‘defensive jihad’ is a thread running through many fundamentalist and specifically ‘salafi-jihadi’ texts. It is mentioned by Abdullah Azzam, mentor of Osama bin Laden, and founder of Lashkar e Tayyaba. It is the argument of ‘defensive jihad’ that the Taleban uses to legitimise its anti human rights actions such as the beheading of dissidents, including members of minority communities, and the public lashing of women. It is a similar logic of ‘defence of religion’ that is used by Christian groups to justify the killing of doctors providing abortion services as well as by Hindutva organisations seeking to justify their actions to ‘liquidate’ Muslims and Christians in India.

In your own organization, research done by Gita Sahgal and others for the last two years into the complex intersection between the preservation of the universality of human rights, terrorism and counter-terrorism in general as well as in relation to this specific case provides enough evidence of doubt and hence the need to proceed with caution. This is essential in order to maintain the integrity of human rights and indeed of the organisation in each and every campaign as well as in each region it works. It has been shown that ‘defensive jihad’ results in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks which are disproportionate and attacks which are targeted for the purpose of discrimination such as those on schools, shrines and religious processions. As you know, international humanitarian law prohibits all such attacks under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Given this it is shocking to us that in your letter you appear to endorse ‘defensive jihad’ as a public position of Amnesty International position. Any human rights defender or organisation, which pledges commitment to the universality of human rights cannot confuse resistance against oppression with espousal of a political ideology committed to indiscriminate use of violence. Endorsement of the concept of ‘defensive jihad’ by an organization such as Amnesty International would call into question its commitment to research the ideological underpinnings of acts of terrorism and its commitment to the eradication of discrimination on the basis of sex/gender and religion. [emphasis added]
And it is a question that Amnesty International has yet to answer.

Instead, we have just one more example of a human rights group that has gone off the deep end and lost all perspective of what he claims to be trying to protect.

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