I stand with Cage

Statement by SACC Chair Richard Haley.

I am appalled at the media attacks being directed against my colleagues at Cage. The attacks are a mixture of manipulative innuendo, ignorant repetitition of untruths, and deliberate deception. All are baseless.

Anyone familiar with Cage will know that it needs no endorsement from me. But in these times of almost universal mendacity, it's important to be clear.

SACC has worked with Cage since the earliest phase of both our organisations in 2003-4. We have seen it evolve from an organisation focussed on human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, and run to a great extent by women, into an ambitious and exemplary human rights campaign in which key roles are held by former victims of abuse.

Over 11-plus years of campaigning, I have developed a very high level of confidence in Cage and the individuals who work for it.

I greatly admire Cage's measured and principled handling of the difficult situation that has developed following the possible identification of "Jihadi John" as Mohammed Emwazi. Cage is particularly to be commended for resisting pressure to bury the facts beneath a mountain of lurid and ritualistic denunciations of the Islamic State (IS).

IS has systematically followed a strategy that is the antithesis of the policies advocated by Cage throughout its existence. Recent statements by Cage make clear their continued rejection of IS abuses.

IS is in my opinion a thoroughly reactionary movement, as well as being yet another contributor to the cruelty and destruction that has scourged the people of Iraq and Syria since the US attack on Iraq. But I think - though of course I cannot speak for Cage - that the hysteria surrounding IS in Britain bodes very badly for the future. It seeks to compel an alliance between those who genuinely abhor IS abuses and the warmongers whose actions created IS in the first place. It will have the effect of encouraging war crimes by the US and its allies and other forces opposed to IS. It makes it harder to muster public opposition to current US-UK military action in Iraq and Syria, and risks making it harder to oppose the potentially catastrophic future escalation of the war against IS. And it makes it harder to oppose attacks on civil liberties in the UK. The omnipresence and exasperating unreason of the demands for more and yet more denunciations of IS will without any doubt drive some young Muslims towards terrorism.

Despite our long and fruitful history of cooperation, Cage and SACC are organised in quite different ways. Cage is a Muslim-led organisation with a strongly Islamic ethos. SACC has no religious affiliation.

Cage has, as far as I know, never taken a formal collective position on the wars waged by the UK and the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. SACC adopted the view when we were founded in 2003 that we opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the then-ongoing occupation of Afghanistan. We have subsequently opposed UK-US military intervention in Libya and Syria, while also being opposed to the Gaddafi and Assad dictatorships. Our members and supporters hold a range of different views on the complex events that have unfolded in Libya and Syria.

Individuals working for Cage also have a perspective on events in Libya and Syria that some of us would disagree with, being perhaps a little more inclined than us to the view that UK intervention could potentially have had a positive effect on the situation. But their views are always well-informed, always founded on their commitment to human rights, and always worthy of respect.

Cage has consistently and fearlessly stood against the manipulation, intimidation and surveillance of Britain's Muslim community by the state apparatus.

Cage has repeatedly come under attack from the media and the government, and because of this is currently unable to operate a bank account. SACC and the Stop the War Coalition hold views that are more thoroughly hostile than Cage to UK Government policy, yet we have not come under any comparable attack. It is difficult to attribute this to anything other than Islamophobia.

I stand with Cage. Everyone who cares about justice should do the same.