Asim Qureshi talks during a press conference held by the CAGE human rights charity in London Photo: Matt Dunham/AP
As Asim Qureshi, of the campaign group Cage, took to the airwaves to explain how Mohammed Emwazi, “Jihadi John”, was the real victim of recent events in Syria, you could almost hear the nation’s collective intake of breath.
Being turned back on his travels and questioned by the security services had, it seemed, left Emwazi with no alternative but to join Islamic State and behead seven innocent people. Further oppression by the UK’s apparatus of government terror included giving him a university education, his family a council flat and not actually arresting or detaining him for anything.
In most of Britain, these messages from Cage’s parallel universe were received with shock and contempt. But the unfortunate truth is that they have significant traction with parts of its target audience.
For Cage is no collection of isolated loonies. As The Telegraph will describe here, it is part of a closely connected network of extremists relentlessly — and successfully — lying to young British Muslims that they are hated and persecuted by their fellow citizens in order to make them into supporters of terror. Cage has an active outreach programme in mosques, universities and community groups. Even more disturbingly, it continues to be treated as a credible partner by respected and respectable organisations, including Liberty and Amnesty International.
Cage’s first lie — or at least partial truth — is that it is a “human rights advocacy group”, working with communities unjustly affected by the “war on terror”. It does work with people who have been tortured, or held without proper legal process, such as Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner in Guantánamo Bay.
But long before its whitewashing of Jihadi John, Cage was also, quite clearly, a terrorism advocacy group. It campaigns for actual terrorists convicted not by kangaroo courts but by juries, on strong evidence, in properly conducted trials. It even campaigns for some terrorists who actually pleaded guilty — such as Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, two friends from Birmingham sentenced to more than 12 years each last December after travelling to Syria…