The National Union of Students has devastated its credibility once more by choosing to align itself with a group contemptuous of democracy and pluralism. In its annual conference, the organisation, which represents 600 student unions in the UK, declared in motion 517 that it will “work alongside civil liberties organisations including CAGE” in order to challenge the PREVENT strategy against counter-terrorism and extremism.
The PREVENT strategy, it is argued, criminalises and indiscriminately targets Muslim organisations. It destroys social harmony by viewing Muslims with suspicion and hostility. Because of this, it is incumbent upon anyone who respects the human rights of minority groups to critique the PREVENT strategy and to ally themselves with Muslim organisations who do the same. However, CAGE are not a conventional civil liberties group. In fact to describe them like that demeans the term. CAGE are an advocacy group sympathetic to theocratic fascism which campaigns in favour of convicted terrorists.
Notwithstanding the faults or merits of the PREVENT strategy, to explicitly declare CAGE to be a civil liberties organisation suggests either ignorance or a conspicuous lack of moral integrity from the NUS. For an organisation that presents itself as dedicated to promoting tolerance and equality, ignorance seems a feeble excuse.
As noted in this piece, CAGE has campaigned in favour of an assortment of convicted terrorists: from Aafia Siddiqui, an Al Qaeda linked terrorist who planned to murder US officials in Afghanistan; to Nizar Tribelsi, a suicide bomber planning to blow up a US military base. The NUS is feted by many young progressives as a bastion for justice and peace. This perception of them doesn’t accord with their admiration for terrorist-sympathisers.
CAGE are also sympathetic to theocratic fascism. In an interview with Andrew Neil for BBC’s This Week, research director of Cage, Asim Qureshi, refused to condemn stoning women for adultery. In an interview with Julian Assange for Russia Today, Qureshi said if the necessary conditions were met he would support stoning. The NUS, which is contemptuous of women who use the wrong pronouns to describe trans people, has chosen to align itself with a group whose members endorse medievally barbaric punishments meted out against ‘adulterers’. The NUS, passionate in its advocacy of ‘safe spaces’ for racial and sexual minorities, endorses and legitimises a group whose ideal conception of society necessitates embedding religious doctrines in law; persecuting with violent intensity gays, women and freethinkers. An organisation which cherishes tolerance should not accommodate the viciously intolerant. But NUS plan to do just that
The NUS are, in many instances, inspired by good intentions. Their ostensible principles is declared to be tolerance, equality and the empowerment of oppressed groups. These principles, however, lack meaning unless they’re universal. The NUS has shown itself to be partisan in its advocacy of these principles because it is hostage to a worldview infecting the wider left; campaigning only in the direction of white western forces, forgetting minority groups can also be homophobic, misogynistic and, indeed, racist. This viewpoint leads them to accommodate groups whose beliefs and doctrines are diametrically opposed to the professed beliefs of the NUS. Their alignment with CAGE is such an example. In campaigning alongside a group like CAGE, the NUS should dissuade any reasonable person of the notion that it actually cares for equality and tolerance.