Written by Student Rights on 4 April 2013 at 2pm

CagePrisoners and the Shaker Aamer campaign at Birkbeck

Here at Student Rights, as we return from our enforced blog downtime, we thought we should highlight a few stories that took place whilst we were away.

Chief amongst these was a Stop the War Coalition event held at Birkbeck on the 20th March entitled ‘Guantanamo and the Secret War on Terror’.

This focused on the case of Shaker Aamer and featured Asim Qureshi, the executive director of CagePrisoners, an organisation criticised by the former Head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit Gita Sahgal in February 2010.

We have written on a number of occasions about the ‘Save Shaker Aamer’ campaign, and the way in which it has allowed extremists access to British university campuses, yet it is still regularly promoted to students.

Qureshi himself has a history of supporting violent activity, stating at a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in 2006:

When we see the examples of our brothers and sisters, fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies...We know that it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West”.

However, what is more duplicitous is the way in which the ‘Save Shaker Aamer Campaign’ fails to mention Aamer’s links to terrorism.

This is despite the fact that Aamer was described as an “extremely active” recruiter for Al-Qaeda by Abu Zubaydah, himself a senior Al-Qaeda figure arrested in a Lashkar-e-Taiba safe house in 2002.

Aamer has also openly admitted travelling to fight in Afghanistan in 1999, as well as of being the roommate of Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

He claims to have regularly met with Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi, the commander at Khalden, an Al-Qaeda traing camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.

Even Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo detainee and director of CagePrisoners, has described Aamer as an Al-Qaeda recruiter and weapons-trained fighter who saw action in Bosnia alongside senior Al-Qaeda commander Abu Zubayr al-Haili.

That events supporting individuals like Aamer and featuring speakers like Qureshi are not uncommon on British campuses highlights the problem facing our universities.

There was no pretence that this event was a debate, with no speakers featured who might have raised any opposition to the ideas espoused by Qureshi and CagePrisoners.

This lack of balance therefore undermines all the arguments about freedom of expression for extreme views, which state that they must be aired on campus so that they can be challenged, as without opposition this practice simply continues to provide an uncontested platform for extremism.