This is a cross post by Shiraz Maher from The Spectator Coffee House
A three year open sore within the human rights community will be closed this evening when Gita Sahgal officially launches her new organisation, the Centre for Secular Space, at Toynbee Hall. Sahgal will also be launching the group’s first report, ‘Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights’ highlighting the ongoing scandal of the left’s promiscuous embrace of radical Islamists.
The story of Gita Sahgal has been covered before but is worth revisiting. A lifelong human rights activist, Sahgal worked on issues relating to women’s rights, religious extremism, and racism before heading up the Gender Unit at Amnesty International. Then, three years ago she was dramatically sacked after expressing concern at the way the group was embracing deeply reactionary Islamists.
In particular, Sahgal was upset at Amnesty’s relationship with Moazzam Begg who is perhaps Britain’s best known and most high profile Guantanamo Bay detainee. Begg had run a bookstore in Birmingham during the 1990s which was investigated on suspicion of supporting terrorism, although no charges were ever brought against any of the staff. Begg then packed his bags and moved from the Midlands to Afghanistan where he lived until shortly after 9/11. When the American invasion took place he fled to Pakistan, was arrested, and subsequently sent to Guantanamo Bay.
‘Double Bind’ revisits this issue, exploring Begg’s background and the wider Islamist milieu to which he belongs. While it ostensibly focuses on the fissiparous and short-termism of the Islamist-Leftist alliance, what the report also demonstrates is that it is perfectly possible to speak up for human rights abuses without whitewashing those who would themselves perpetrate similar injustices.
To appreciate just how far the human rights community has succumbed to relativist dogma, bear in mind that while Sahgal has been shunned for the last three years Begg has remained one of its champions. Sahgal is now, finally, in a position to fight back. Her new group is set to provide a necessary and long overdue counterblast to much of the errant thinking that has arrested large parts of the left. ‘Double Bind’ demonstrates that Sahgal intends to confront many of the pernicious misconceptions that led to her ousting from Amnesty. Expect to hear a lot more from her and the Centre for Secular Space over the coming year.