February 16, 2010


I'm not sure if I am contradicting myself on this blog, but I feel like I should comment a bit more about this Moazzam Begg/Amnesty thing. I used to be totally anti torture. These days I am not so sure. How do you get a terrorist with a track record of attrocity to talk? I don't know. I am not saying I am pro torture, or that I think torture is a good idea. I'm saying I don't know. I would imagine the sort of person who is involved in torture would have a "they're all guilty" attitude. I probably wouldn't like them. But what if some information they got hold of prevented loss of innocent life? As I'm not in a position where my stances affect the day to day runnings of the war on terr-r I prefer not to take them.

I used to be a principled person. I used to think principles were valuable. These days I find myself almost annoyed at principled people from either side. Over the last few years I have shied away from too much opinion here, prefering just to link to subjects or items in the news which I found relevant. If I have an opinion on anything it usually ends up in the comments section of Pickled Politics or Rightwingsparkle (now Kathleen McKinley.com).

Do I miss being a principled person? Not really. Its very tempting to stick a flag in the ground or wave it about in the air. To "take a stand" on an issue or against another issue, but I question myself, things I read and things I see. Don't get me wrong- principles are important, until they become outmoded. But people always want you to take a side don't they. How can I if I don't have enough information on which to base an opinion?

For example, when I believed for a short while during the Hamza trial that I had some solid connections into another side of the story I took this to a major production company with a view to getting something made which was bigger than I could manage alone. I was asked my views on Hamza.

"I think he is either everything they say he is, or he is who he's saying he is at the trial." I said.

"You've got to come down of the fence a bit more than that." I was told.

Strange. Why? I visited Finsbury for years, but I wouldn't claim to know who Hamza is. Plenty of people with years less experience have made a lot of money saying who he is. How do they know? They are a fucking joke. I only know this because I was there. I never promised anyone I was fleetingly connected with that I would depict Hamza as innocent, just that my pride was such that if they would risk telling me their side of the story on camera, I was totally up for depicting what they said fairly and they were happy with that. Anyway none of that matters now.

Things in my life have encouraged me to take my time with my stances and opinions and if I don't know to say so, and to say so simply, with honesty and with as much pride as I used to take in any of the principles I used to stand on. I don't know. Simple.

Is Amnesty damaged by its relationship with Caged Prisoners? Possibly. Put it this way I am surprised the issue hasn't come up before. I would imagine a lot of Caged Prisoners readership believe Hamza was prosecuted for preaching Islam. This is an unacceptable view apparently, which in wider society leads people to believe Caged Prisoners supports terrorists.

As a bit of a barometer beyond my own comfortable perch on the fence, none of the journalists I have met have shown any concern about Moazzam Begg, though quite a few have questioned whether Caged Prisoners are supporting the right people. Amnesty is supposed to take a black and white view of torture, naughtiness, unacceptable behaviour. Connection with Caged Prisoners will be problematic. Of course it will. Moazaam and most of the people at AI are going to be quite righteously angry because for them torture should be top of the agenda and nothing else.

Speaking personally I have never had a problem with anyone from Caged Prisoners, and I don't think that anyone from that organisation I have met wants to threaten my way of life or the UK at all. I don't think they are campaigning for the loss of innocent life, but I fully understand that a lot of Muslims want a future that I don't want, and one that I would have quite a problem with. No one I have filmed with has any illusions about my personal beliefs. They just want fair representation of what they are saying. For the wider public to make informed opinions they need accurate information.

I can't see why Ghita Sahgal was sacked or why Amnesty should distance themselves from Moazzam Begg. Instutions should learn that there is nothing wrong with arguing in public. You are not a politician, you didn't want to be a politician. Relax. This is a live issue. We live in a world where thousands have died for "democracy" and many more thousnads as the victims of "democracy". Thousands have died for "jihad". Thousands have died as the victims of "jihad". It is important that I take a stand is it? OK then. I stand for everyone making peace.

Human rights are for all: Response to media article (Amnesty International)
The conscience stifled by Amnesty (Times)

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