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British Islamist NGO wants to fight ‘persecution’ of Muslims by France

Martha Lee, a researcher at Islamist Watch, highlights the dangerous rhetoric with which CAGE, a British NGO, tries to build a make-believe narrative

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Published in early March, the report by the British NGO with Islamist connections CAGE on “the persecution of Muslims by the State in France” is at the centre of coordinated efforts aimed at discrediting the anti-Islamist policy led by France. CAGE had not yet posted a link to the report on its Twitter account, which the online news site Middle East Eye, close to the Qatari regime, already headlined: “British NGO accuses France of maintaining a climate of terror towards its Muslim community.

Ankara-controlled media and other Islamist publications have followed suit.

‘Ongoing mass persecutions’

The stated objective of this report? Give “the tools necessary to understand and intervene in an ongoing mass persecution, and offer essential solidarity to Muslims in France”.

Before examining this report more closely, it is worth recalling the British NGO’s own ideological roots, those that shape its fierce opposition to anti-Islamist efforts, whether in the UK or France.

Founded in 2003, CAGE is led by ex-jihadi Moazzam Begg who was imprisoned in Guantanamo after being captured in Afghanistan. Begg confessed to recruiting jihadists and himself attending several al Qaeda terrorist training camps. He also acknowledged that he was armed and ready to fight against the United States under the orders of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

His colleague Asim Qureshi, director of at CAGE, said it was incumbent on Muslims to support Muslim-led jihad in countries where they would be oppressed by the West. Qureshi is also in favour of punishing adultery with the death penalty.


Extremism is a must at CAGE. Before becoming chief executive of the British NGO, Rabbani trained young Muslims for the South Asian Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami. He told the recruits that their goal was to mobilise believers into an organised force that would establish Islamic law and wage jihad.

CAGE’s job is to fight against the UK’s anti-Islamist efforts and to lobby for Muslims indicted for terrorism. Anwar Al-Awlaki, an English-speaking preacher turned ideologue in chief of the Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda, was one of their proteges. When Al-Awlaki was arrested in 2006 by Yemeni authorities who accused him of participating in an Al-Qaeda plot to kidnap an American official, CAGE was quick to campaign to obtain the release of the man she described as a “Muslim scholar” highly “esteemed in Islamic circles”. The preacher’s first public appearance – once released – came in the form of an interview with Begg. Subsequently, Al-Awlaki was invited to speak at two benefit dinners organised by CAGE.

The bogey called Islamophobia

The British NGO has also defended Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a jihadist linked to Al-Qaeda, as well as Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, who has become one of the most famous executioners of the Islamic State. When the identity of the latter was revealed, Asim Qureshi was quick to sing the praises of this “handsome young man” who, according to Qureshi, had joined IS because of harassment by the British security services.

In a preface that is ultimately quite sober compared to the rest of the report, the academic François Burgat is faithful to his usual thesis and notes that it is in the “terroir” of French colonial history that lies “the true source of the Islamophobic push that is ploughing through French society today”. The academic concludes cautiously by evoking “a very legitimate concern about the health of the body politic and its institutions”.

Rayan Freschi, a French jurist employed by CAGE and author of the report, is more bellicose and directly attacks the French state for allegedly “engaging in a systematic program aimed at silencing Muslim activism and Islam, as well as to humiliate the Muslims of France in general”.

How the British NGO sees ‘persecution’

The French jurist also criticises France for not recognising “the political and legal existence of minorities on its soil”. The situation is actually quite different in Anglo-Saxon countries where the Islamists have plenty of time to exploit a system that is much more benevolent towards them.

Addressing CAGE’s favourite subject, Rayan Freschi criticises the war on terror which has resulted in “[presenting] Islamic beliefs and Muslims who reject the political status quo as enemies to be vigorously opposed”. What about Islamism and the terrorism it inspires? Erased. The word itself, as well as its cousins ​​such as “radicalisation” or “extremism”, would only be “attempts at linguistic diversion” seeking to hide the fact that under the guise of an anti-Islamist struggle, these are “Muslim beliefs widespread normative norms” that are actually being targeted, according to Freschi.

That the Senate committee which produced the 2020 report on Islamist radicalisation and separatism precisely establishes a distinction between Islamists and Muslims does not help CAGE. Freschi, therefore, presents it as a line of demarcation drawn between the Islamists and the Muslims who would be their “politically submissive and silenced” version.

If CAGE is concerned about the policy pursued by France, it is also because the British NGO fears that other countries will follow the French example. Rayan Freschi writes: “the perils and injustices” faced by French Muslims “are likely to be exported to neighbouring countries”. France is already “spreading its Islamophobic approach to its European neighbours”, a concern heightened by the fact that France holds the presidency of the EU council until June.

After this indictment, Freschi moves on to the remedies recommended by CAGE. The British NGO demands, among other things, that the French government “repeal the anti-separatism law and the imams’ charter as well as the Islamophobic laws of 2004 and 2010” and that it “formally recognise the legal existence of minorities and their grant the resulting legal rights and protections. »

No policy being perfect, the French government’s policy to counter Islamism certainly has its flaws, but CAGE’s angry recriminations suggest it is bearing fruit.

Translated by Surajit Dasgupta from the article by Martha Lee, a researcher at Islamist Watch, originally published on Marianne

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