Although the title of this piece alone will cause sufficient hysteria from most quarters of both the Liberal and Muslim readership (strange bedfellows that they are) to make them respond without actually reading the rest of the article, I take it that the honest intellectual seekers amongst our readership would however like to know more…
Moazzam Begg is a former Guantanamo detainee. That description alone is enough to make him a saint and living martyr to most Muslims and most opponents of the West’s overheated ‘War on Terror’.
But it should not be, at least for the Muslims.
Indeed, Muslims have been victimised by the War on Terror (now capitalised) to the extent of losing their lives in their hundreds of thousands. It continues today in drone attacks on Pakistan, governments from around the world using it to legitimise repressive measures against Muslim minorities and a thousand other ways. Yes, Muslims have been victimised by political and ideological machinations in the West and elsewhere. But politics cannot overwrite religion. That is the very essence of Islam and some would argue the very reason for the victimisation of Muslims and their values.
Yet Muslims are doing exactly this: having been politically under siege, they are adopting a gang mentality and ‘standing up’ for each other – regardless of whether they should or not. They are not picking their battles but rather herding around every case of a Muslim allegedly being in the wrong as an example of anti-Islamic victimisation. Sadly, this is reminiscent of the practice of the pre-Islamic Arabians known as ‘my tribe right or wrong’, successfully abolished by the Prophet Muhammad and revived of late by Yvonne Ridley, IERA, and many other Muslim personalities and groups in the wake of the arrest by British authorities of Moazzam Begg on terrorism charges related to his supporting the Syrian opposition (who are technically the British and Western governments preferred combatants in that conflict):
No sooner had he been arrested than Muslims from all walks of public life, from self publicising sophists such as Hamza Tzortzis, unrepentant genital mutilators and Bin Laden Apologists such as Haitham al-Haddad, reputable journalists like Yvonne Ridley as well as figures from the political Left and even comedian Russell Brand, came out in support of Begg, claiming his innocence and decrying the UK for arresting him for ‘political reasons’ (thereby implying that the UK is a police state where innocent people are not only arrested for no reason whatsoever but even charged for no probable cause as well). Even obscurities such as ‘Islamic scholar’ Zahir Mahmoud voiced their (unqualified) support.
Here is a typically emotional and in fact borderline hysterical appeal from an on-line petition: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-release-moazzam?recruiter=84498050&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=petition_invitation
Apart from mentioning as ‘evidence’ of an impending unfair trial the case of a US prisoner (and thus nothing to do with the UK justice system to which Begg will be subjected), it continues:
‘Injustice has already been served when Moazzam Begg was taken to Guantanamo Bay to serve a sentence without a trial or charge. He was released and became a voice for the voiceless’
Apart from being an evidence free-rant, it fails to mention that it was the same British government that petitioned for his release after three years in Guantanamo that has now felt it necessary to arrest him. Bizarrely and embarrassingly for Muslims, the letter to the Prime Minister in the aforementioned petition goes on to assert that Begg should get a fair trial – though it states that he is ‘innocent’ since ‘thousands believe he is innocent’. So now Muslims have embraced trial by media – how exactly did this petitioner establish that Begg is ‘innocent’? Has a thorough investigation been carried out? The letter concludes with the utterance to the Prime Minister of Britain that the ‘arrest is politically motivated’.
Then why not furnish us with the proof of both his innocence and the political machinations behind his arrest? I’m sure David Cameron would be most irate to see that resources were being wasted on re-persecuting a man that his government could have left to rot in the hell that is Guantanamo in the first place without going to the trouble of getting him released by the (reluctant) Americans only to ‘politically persecute’ him again.
Similarly, the wannabee ‘Muslim Journalist’ (what defines ‘Muslim’ as opposed to ‘non-Muslim’ journalism awaits clarification) rag ‘5pillarz’ (yes, that is how they spelt it, expect the launch of ‘The Sunday Timez Fo’ Shizzle Ma Nizzle’ by the same aspirants soon) declared his arrest an act of ‘brazen Islamophobia’ and compared him to Malcolm X (apart from the bald offensiveness of this remark it showed their sheer ignorance of Malcolm X’s life since they failed to state in which way the comparison held, since Malcolm X was never arrested under terrorism charges).
A large demonstration was organised by ‘Cageprisoners’ (the organisation that Begg runs, so impartiality was of course guaranteed. Like, you know, Fox News).
Basically, almost no Muslim authority or ‘voice’ for Muslims in the British public, ranging from ‘Dawa’ organisations such as IERA to Islamic ‘scholars’ such as Haddad and Zahir Mahmoud and even sane voices such as Sheikh Abdalhaq Bewley failed to come out in his support.
Now, I am not a ‘dawah’ organisation or a ‘scholar’, but I do know this much: Since when did the Quran and Islam embrace trial by sophistry, innocence regardless of trial and evidence? In short, how can we ‘support’ someone accused of serious crimes and insist that they are not guilty without evidence being provided or a trial or even a hearing occurring simply because they are Muslim or were held in Guantanamo?
Are the aforementioned voices going to introduce this novel system of justice so that we can see it in action? Namely that a person is not only innocent until proven guilty, but if Muslim, is innocent. Period.
This bizarre inversion of Islam is unprecedented in the entire history of that religion, which in fact is known for it’s insistence that justice be done, though the heavens fall. Yet this is precisely what Begg’s interlocutors have achieved – a ‘bidat’, or innovation, so heinous and absurd that it tarnishes the whole religion for the sake of one man.
And what a man…
Although nearly all Muslims would have us effectively beatify Begg forthwith, he is a man who nearly all British Muslims should find very troubling.
Begg found himself in Guantanamo at the Commander in Chiefs’ leisure because he had uprooted his British family to go and live and work in Afghanistan under none other than the Taliban. Begg’s Wikipedia page (which he and his supporters are free to correct) makes for shocking reading:
”The Pentagon claimed Begg was an enemy combatant and Al-Qaeda member, who recruited for al-Qaeda, provided money for their training camps, and trained at their camps in Afghanistan to fight U.S. or allied troops. Begg has said he spent time at two Islamic training camps in Afghanistan, supported militant Muslim fighters, bought a rifle and a handgun, and was acquainted with persons linked to terrorism, but he denies the remainder of the U.S.’s allegations.”
These are similar to the same ‘politically’ motivated and ‘brazenly Islamophobic’ charges brought against him by the UK government this time. Remember, this was in support of the Taliban regime which openly flogged people for beard length, by it’s own admission proscribed girls (and most boys) education and worst of all, sheltered Bin Laden openly for years before 9/11 was even a pipe-dream and he had already admitted to the Kenyan Embassy and other bombings. But no matter. Begg thought it was a great idea to move himself and his wife and children to Afghanistan to live and work amongst the Taliban. As part of an NGO? Non-politically? No, to train with and support them it would appear:
”With his wife Zaynab and three young children, Begg moved to Kabul, Afghanistan, in late July 2001. At the time, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It protected Osama bin Laden, a Saudi; banned music and most games, beat women for improper dress, had fired all women in public service, and severely restricted the education and medical treatment of women. Despite this, Begg saw it as a good and inexpensive place to raise a family. Begg wrote in his autobiography that in 2001, the Taliban had made “some modest progress—in social justice and upholding pure, old Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries.”
But he must be an all right guy after all since:
‘Begg now says that was his perception at the time, and since then, he has criticised the Taliban for human rights abuses.‘
But of course, what else can he say now?
Begg also has charming friends and a great taste in books:
In 1999, Begg through his bookstore commissioned and published a book by Dhiren Barot about his experiences in Kashmir, entitled The Army of Madinah in Kashmir. Barot had undergone training in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and joined the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir against India. He was later referred to as bin Laden’s “UK General”, convicted in Britain of being an al-Qaeda terrorist, and sentenced to 40 years in jail. In the book Barot, who used the alias Esa Al Hindi, accuses western troops of invading Muslim countries, and urges followers to strike back. Barot wrote: “Terror works, and that is why the believers are commanded to enforce it by Allah.” The book was used as evidence against Barot at his trial for planning a “dirty bomb” attack on London, in which he was convicted.
In his book Enemy Combatant, Begg tells us:
”I wanted to live in an Islamic state–one that was free from the corruption and despotism of the rest of the Muslim world…. I knew you wouldn’t understand. The Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years.”
Yes Moazzam, unfortunately, I don’t understand either.
A confession that Begg made while incarcerated, probably under horrendous conditions and torture from the US (much like that which the Taliban routinely inflicted on people but Begg found was ‘better than anything Afghanistan had had in the past 25 years’):
”I was armed and prepared to fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda against the U.S. and others, and eventually retreated to Tora Bora to flee from U.S. forces when our front lines collapsed…. [I] knowingly provided comfort and assistance to al-Qaeda members by housing their families, helped distribute al-Qaeda propaganda, and received members from terrorist camps knowing that certain trainees could become al-Qaeda operatives and commit acts of terrorism against the United States.”
Begg also said in his confession that he sympathised with the cause of al-Qaeda, trained in three al-Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan so that he could assist in waging global jihad against enemies of Islam, including Russia and India; associated with and assisted several prominent al-Qaeda terrorists and supporters of terrorists, and discussed potential terrorist acts with them; recruited young members for global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps.
After release, Begg was perhaps still less than careful about who he put his support behind:
”Begg interviewed the al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, a former imam in the United States, after the latter was released from jail in Yemen in 2007. Al-Awlaki was invited to address Cageprisoners’ fundraising dinners in August 2008 at Wandsworth Civic Centre…(by videolink, as he is banned from entering the U.K.) and August 2009 at Kensington Town Hall; the local authority told the group that it could not broadcast al-Awlaki’s words on its property. Cageprisoners has material about and by al-Awlaki on its website.”
I mean, this could all be nonsense – in which case Begg and Cageprisoners should avail themselves of the famous ‘Edit’ facility on Wikipedia and use their friends and resources to perhaps undertake legal proceedings against those making these allegations (as they did successfully against the UK government on the charges of assisting an illegal interrogation and others).
Just as with the current charges, in Islamic law, Muslims do not disbelieve the US simply because they are ‘not Muslim’ nor believe Begg just because he is Muslim. What is pertinent is that the US (and Taliban) are involved in torture rendition etc and Begg is possibly involved with the Taliban.
I would like to believe him. But thinking the best of someone and declaring their innocence are two entirley different things – in both Islamic and British law.
I can give you my opinion on this, just as all of these ‘Muslim speakers’ are doing – I could say that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe just a guy who bought into the romanticised stories about the Taliban that were fed to many British youth – especially in Deobandi madrassas and mosques before 9/11. Or maybe what the US say is true, or he went to Afghansitan because he simply loved the Taliban. But it’s pointless – I suspect no-one, including the governments of the US and UK will ever know for sure. Indeed the only one who knows for sure is Begg.
And there is no reason to believe nor disbelieve him. But at the very least, moving your whole family to live under the Taliban is amazingly stupid and an example of shockingly poor research and lamentable knowledge of Islamic norms.
And absolving Begg of his current charges without at least waiting for a trial before screaming ‘injustice/Islamophobia/political motivation’ is equally foolish.
Further, it embarrasses the entire British Muslim community by showing both it’s members and outsiders that Muslims’ public representatives and agitators are in reality little better on many occasions than Zionists: they refuse to be balanced about their own ‘members’.
What would have been more Islamicly licit is to have presented a cogent and understandable criticism of anti-terror laws and placed Beggs’ arrest in the context of these and then awaited the outcome. But of course, Syria is both a Salafist and a Neo-Con cause celebre. And I think we can all rest assured that Begg was limiting his charitable contributions (he says) or terrorist training (the UK Government says) to his favourite groups, which on past evidence are extremist Salafists like the Taliban.
And of course, many of those supporting him at rallies are barn door Salfists and Taliban supporters driven undercover and into political correctness by recent changes in British law, as well as open, secret, or ex members of groups such as ‘Hizb Ut Tahrir’ (who supported the Taliban and prior to 9/11 used to publish books chastising Muslims for not referring to suicidal bombing as ‘martyrdom’) such as Taji Mustafa, Hamza Tzortzis et al. To these speakers, ‘bad’ can only be what the US does to the indeed perpetually suffering citizens of Afghanistan but never what self proclaimed authorities like the Taliban do to Muslims. In a strange mirroring of the Islamophobes, these individuals and others want to keep the eyes of Muslims squarely on the affronts of Western powers, but never on the liberties taken in the name of Islam by Salafist groups, whether in Afghanistan or in Syria. They just want to help the Syrian people. But not all of them. Just the ones who agree with them.
Theologically, Haddad, Tzortzis, Ridley and all of the other misguided and self publicising Muslims who came out at various rallies in support of Begg should be ashamed for forsaking the most important principle of Islam – a principle so important that God demands it of himself: Justice.