Study released on Muslims and violence

A study that was conducted by UC-Berkeley Professor M. Steven Fish on the link between Muslims and violence has been cited in numerous news articles around the internet recently. In his guest post for the Washington Post, Professor M. Steven Fish provides an angle not often offered in mainstream media, citing statistics for murder rates in Muslim-majority countries as a counter argument to the viewpoint often asserted that Muslims are a more violent community than non-Muslims:

One explanation we can rule out is that Muslims are violent people. Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country's murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.

Fish also re-ran numbers to exclude non-Muslim-majority states with extraordinarily high murder rates (Colombia, Guatemala, El Salavador, Honduras, Jamaica, Lesotho, South Africa and Venezuela). Countries with a large Muslim population were found to be less murder prone by a significant margin.

However, CAGE acknowledges that there are many other factors that contribute to violence rates, such as widespread poverty, institutional racism, corruption, how the law is implemented and how the justice system operates generally.

Whatever one makes of this study, CAGE welcomes discussions which aim to unpack the often prevalent narrative that Muslims are more prone to violence because of religion (a narrative exacerbated by government programs such as PREVENT). These ideas, if left unchallenged, only serve to perpetuate islamophobia, general ignorance and fear, which, in turn is then used to justify increased state power via draconian laws (such as the CTS Bill) and mass surveillance.

Revealing comment made by lead PREVENT Officer

In an article written today in the local Cambridge news on PREVENT and how the Cambridge community can play its part in tackling terrorism, the Cambridgeshire Constabulary's lead officer on PREVENT made a revealing comment about the risk that extremism poses to society.

Following a major conference in the city this week where community leaders joined police officers and councillors to discuss the city's PREVENT agenda, Chief Inspector Chris Balmer stated:

"Very, very few people who export or espouse these extremist views will go onto plan or take part in real terrorist activity - they tend to be people who are vulnerable in the first place."

It would seem that by acknowledging that there is a very low risk to society, PREVENT's lead officer has undermined the entire mandate of the PREVENT program, which operates on the basis that society is at a huge risk from 'extremists' and that there is therefore a need to root out 'radical' and 'extremist' ideology in order to counter terrorism.

This is particularly concerning given the Government's continuing efforts to expand the size and severity of the PREVENT program (read CAGE's PREVENT Report), using the potentially large and ever-growing threat from extremists as a justification for its expansion. As it stands, PREVENT aims to co-opt universities, schools, nurseries and health care providers into helping the state identify potential extremists, using them as bodies to conduct state surveillance. However, until now, this has been operated on a voluntary basis. The risk that 'extremism' presents is now being used by the Government to justify the need for the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, which will make it a legal obligation for health, education, penal and local government bodies to identify and tackle 'extremism' and to protect those 'vulnerable to being drawn in to terrorism'. This will only serve to worsen and normalise the already pervasive policing of free expression conducted and encouraged by PREVENT at all levels and in all spheres.

In response to the Government's disproportionate, unnecessary and draconian policies, CAGE, along with a number of groups and organisations, has launched a community campaign against the CTS Bill. Please visit the website to find out more about the far-reaching impact of the bill and how to be part of the campaign to stop it:

CAGE's Media Advocacy on the CTS Bill

Following Theresa May’s Counter Terrorism and Security Bill (CTS Bill) proposal at the end of November 2014, CAGE has been active in raising awareness of the implications of such a bill passing through Parliament and becoming enacted. CAGE’s critique and advocacy has been key, particularly as the Bill has been expedited through Parliament, leaving very little time for public discussion and analysis - a process crucial for draft legislation.

In December, in the aftermath of the announcement of the proposals, CAGE highlighted in BBC and in AFP articles on the subject the hastiness of the Bill and its counter-productive nature, ensuring that readers were aware of its “illiberal, disproportionate and dangerous” consequences. CAGE’s comments in AFP were then repeated around the world in other media outlets such as Yahoo News, Kuwait Times, Expressen (Sweden), Channel News Asia, and France24.

CAGE’s Cerie Bullivant was then quoted by AFP in a more in depth article on the CTS Bill and its implications in regards to the further targeting and marginalisation of Muslims. This was then translated for numerous French outlets such as L’express, Le Pays and La Rep with RT also providing a similar quote by Cerie Bullivant in their coverage of the bill.

This January, as the government was opening the draft CTS bill up to public consultation, CAGE issued a press release and an advisory document that attempted to educate public bodies on the problems inherent with the draft legislation. This advocacy was then continued in NewsWeek and MSN News, where CAGE’s PREVENT report and Cerie Bullivant were quoted extensively. The articles conveyed how detrimental PREVENT has been in co-opting education and childcare professionals into the “state-spying regime”, criminalising whole sections of the Muslim community and perpetuating assumptions and stereotypes of Muslims.

Students have also been in touch with CAGE asking for clarification on the implications of the CTS bill, with the result being that CAGE was quoted in East London Lines highlighting it as the “single most intrusive piece of legislation in the lives of communities across the UK”. 

Finally, CAGE, along with a number of groups and organisations, has launched a community campaign against the CTS Bill. Please visit the website to find out more about the far-reaching impact of the bill and how to be part of the campaign to stop it: 


The Case of Samiun Rahman is highlighted by CAGE in the media

The recent case of Londoner Samiun Rahman’s arrest in Bangladesh has been widely covered in the media. The media hype and narrative, however, have only served to distort the facts of the case. Read on to discover how CAGE has raised awareness of the violations of fundamental principles of law that are taking place in Samiun Rahman's case and called into question the circumstances surrounding his arrest. 

In September, the case of 24 year old British citizen Samiun Rahman who was arrested in Bangladesh came to CAGE’s attention. It was alleged by the Bangladeshi police that he was in Dhaka recruiting on behalf of both the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, (both based in Syria) after they claimed to have obtained a confession from him.

Below is the advocacy work that CAGE conducted on this case:

1)      CAGE, familiar with Bangladesh’s infamously abysmal human rights record, issued a press release urging the UK government to practice caution when considering these claims and stressed that he had not yet been charged. In this press release, CAGE highlighted the extensive reports on the Bangladeshi authorities' widespread use of extrajudicial killings, torture in prisons and police violence.

2)      As the case developed in October, CAGE, known to be at the forefront of raising concerns about Rahman’s treatment and arrest, was contacted by many news agencies for comment. The BBC interviewed CAGE’s Amandla Thomas-Johnson who once again re-iterated that the police’s allegations should be viewed within the context of Bangladesh’s poor track-record of torture as a means of extracting confessions following arrests.

3)      CAGE, in an effort to produce a wider, more holistic picture of the case, also took statements from Samiun Rahman’s wife which were picked up and quoted by the Daily Star in their reporting of the story.

4)      Last week, as it emerged that Rahman’s family were forced to pay a ‘torture bribe’ to the Bangladeshi authorities to prevent Rahman from being further mistreated, the Independent contacted CAGE for further comment on the case. CAGE used this opportunity to highlight the grossly incorrect narrative that has been so prevalent in the media on this case. In his comment, Amandla Thomas-Johnson drew attention to the ‘holes’ in the case pointing out the impossibility of working for and recruiting for two organisations which are fighting each other. Amandla also commented on the absurdity of the mock arrest that was staged by the police at the railway station in Dhaka - an event which has been largely ignored by the media. He underlined that Rahman’s case perfectly exemplified the abuses of the War on Terror in that not only was Rahman being detained and interrogated in conditions incompatible with the most basic principles of law but also that the extent of the media hype served to distort the focus of the case and presume guilt from the outset.

CAGE has advocated for due process in many War on Terror cases around the world and will continue to do so.

Did the coalition’s strikes supress or create a Syrian threat to the West?

On 11 September 2014, President Obama announced air strikes in Iraq and Syria, judging that military intervention was a necessary counter-terrorism measure to prevent IS from becoming a future threat to the US.

Just three months later, facts prove that the justification to bomb was patently incorrect but also that it put the West at risk.

Were Syrian foreign fighters a threat to the West?
Before the strikes, Thomas Hegghammer, one of the world’s foremost experts on foreign fighters, provided a well-researched and balanced assessment of the “Syrian spill over”.
1.      Not every foreign fighter becomes an international terrorist, far from it
“At most one in nine of the westerners who went fight in conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq” got involved in plots in the West between 1990 and 2010.
However, this figure cannot be applied flatly to any conflict.
2.      Number of returnees varies
Conflicts like Iraq were expected to produce a large spill-over but did not.
On the opposite, destinations like Yemen have a small numbers of foreign fighters but a higher rate of blowback.
Blowback more likely to happen if groups on the ground have “a declared strategy of systematically targeting the west”
“We do not have an organisation with a declared strategy of targeting the west” in Syria, said the academic.
The Islamic State was focused on its “near enemies” and expanding its control over territories in Iraq and Syria. The Department of Homeland Security even admitted it was not aware of any specific threat to the US from Islamic State militants.
Jabhat al Nusra was seeking to build a post-war Syria based on consultations “with Muslim scholars and thinkers who supported the Syrian uprising, to draft a plan for running the country according to Sharia”.
Ahrar al Sham was advocating “an Islamic state which protects the rights of women and religious and ethnic minorities”. They were “running bakeries, distributing aid, establishing courts, reopening schools and even freeing Western journalists abducted by other armed groups”.

What happened after the strikes?
On the ground, a number of groups which were actually fighting the Islamic State were also targeted.
As a result, the Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra threatened revenge attacks in the West.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and other Islamic groups which previously engaged in deadly  fights against IS now say they entered into alliances or truces with the group due to US bombings.
In other words, the US-led strikes created a reactionary threat from groups which had no interest in fighting the West and alienated western-backed groups causing them to turn against their former sponsors.

CAGE, ISC report and Jeremiah Adebolajo statement

In recent days, the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) investigation as to whether intelligence agencies could have prevented the murder of soldier Lee Rigby has been concluded provoking much debate in the media as to the consequences emanating from the Parliamentary watchdog’s finding. Read on for an overview of CAGE’s involvement in the debate.

This week, whilst the ISC investigation concluded that intelligence agencies could not have prevented Lee Rigby’s death, the parliamentary report did however conclude that, had a US internet company flagged up online messages to UK intelligence, the killing of Lee Rigby could have been prevented.

CAGE was quick to issue a  press release  about this, criticising the committee for its focus on the company and for its call for all communication service providers to review terrorism “trigger” accounts, notify authorities and to grant more power to security agencies. The committee’s focus on the internet service providers not only ignored the core issue behind the tragedy of the Lee Rigby killing, namely: how did the security agencies fail to prevent an attack by someone under their watch? But also justifies increased powers for security agencies to pressure companies and monitor social media sites more closely.

CAGE highlighted that the inquiry failed to address the issue of Michael Adebolajo’s harassment by security services while in the UK and his torture in Kenya which took place with their full knowledge. CAGE’s points about the inquiry’s failures were picked up by numerous media outlets, with  ITV News  being one of the first to extensively quote CAGE’s press release for their story. The  Guardian   not only highlighted MI5’s knowledge of Adebolajo’s torture ordeal in Kenya but also quoted CAGE’s Amandla Thomas-Johnson who criticised the committee’s failure to investigate further and interview key people when gathering evidence for their report’s findings.  VICE News  also quoted both CAGE’s press release and Amandla, pointing out report’s dubious shift in both focus and blame from the intelligence agencies to the communication service providers.  Al-Jazeera quoted CAGE’s Cerie Bullivant who underlined the absurdity of having the state’s security apparatus investigating the security apparatus.

With the story further developing throughout the day, CAGE then  issued a statement  from Jeremiah Adebolajo who wished to clarify certain facts about his brother’s case for the media. News outlets such as  CNN  then quoted his statement on CAGE’s website, drawing attention to the point he made about his brother having almost no online presence at all and accusing the committee of trying to justify the expansion of government’s spying powers. CNN also quoted Jeremiah on the fact that measures such as these will only further alienate young Muslims and make it harder to track ‘lone wolf’ attackers.

The Telegraph and The New York Times were also quick to pick up on Jeremiah’s statement made via CAGE. The Telegraph, in its live blogging of the developments during the day, quoted large sections of Jeremiah’s statement which highlighted the disingenuous and opportunistic nature of the report’s findings. The New York Times chose to run with a quote that underlined the extent to which the report distracted the public from the real motives behind the attack and only served to place British society under further pressure and surveillance.

Following Moazzam’s release, CAGE opens the debate on failed negotiations for Henning.

By Jules Martin
Following Moazzam’s release, CAGE has campaigned and advocated widely on the issues surrounding his incarceration. Read on for a summary of CAGE’s work in the media on this topic.

As has been widely reported in the media, Moazzam Begg was released from Belmarsh prison last Wednesday following the CPS’s decision to drop all charges against him. The CPS and police claim that this was due to ‘new evidence’ which had been revealed by Mi5, namely that Mi5 were aware of Moazzam’s activities and had had meetings with him regarding this. CAGE will be addressing the issue of this ‘new evidence’ in an upcoming article (stay tuned).

Since Moazzam’s release, numerous questions and issues have been raised not only in regards to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the CPS’s charges against him but also in regards to the events taking place before and after his arrest for negotiation for Alan Henning’s release.

In the week following Moazzam’s release, CAGE opened the debate on the UK government’s role in the failure of hostage negotiations for Alan Henning. On 7th October, Moazzam appeared on the prime spot on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme where he criticised the Government for thwarting his efforts to negotiate for Alan Henning’s release. Later, Moazzam was then interviewed in the CAGE offices by ITV News and Al-Jazeera. Following extensive media coverage and a statement released by Alan Henning's brother which indicated that he would have agreed to Moazzam negotiating for Henning and also asking him to help other IS captives; that same evening the Prime Minister responded. He stated that the government were 'happy to work with anyone' and that Moazzam’s appeals for negotiations for Alan Henning ‘fell on deaf ears’ (we assume he was referring to ISIS). As part of this same response, he then asked Moazzam to share any knowledge he has on ISIS with the Government . This is a disingenuous request given that the Government rejected Mr. Begg when he approached them in January regarding negotiations.

In response to Cameron’s claim that Moazzam’s call for negotiation fell on ‘deaf ears’, CAGE released a statement indicating that the appeal did indeed fall on deaf ears – that of ISIS and the UK government; this statement includes the full written appeal in both Arabic and English. CAGE released some of the correspondence between Moazzam and the FCO featured on BBC News at 6pm and 10pm – proving the same.

The unfolding of these events have not only highlighted the government’s role in frustrating meaningful attempts to release a British hostage (thereby denying a British citizen the protection of their government) but also raised pressing questions about the merits of having a blanket policy against negotiations and whether this policy was merely rhetoric.