Friday, April 16, 2010

Amnesty International Heads into the Toilet

I've been aware for some time now of the suspension and departure from Amnesty International of Gita Sahgal. The problem arose because Amnesty has decided to partner with the distasteful Moazzam Begg and the equally distasteful Cagedprisoners.
Oliver Kamm has a good summary of the key points.
He cites a Times editorial:
Gita Sahgal, the head of the gender unit of Amnesty’s international secretariat, has drawn attention to the cynicism of this association. Amnesty stands for a disinterested defence of human rights. Islamism is an ideology of theocratic and sexual repression. Having stated her concerns to Amnesty, Ms Sahgal went public with them this week. Within hours, she found herself suspended from her post. In an extraordinary inversion of its traditional role, Amnesty has stifled its own still small voice of conscience.
And then cites Sahgal's statement on her departure from the organization. Here is a part of that.
I was hired as the Head of the Gender Unit as the organization began to develop its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. I leave with great sadness as the campaign is closed. Thousands of activists of Amnesty International enthusiastically joined the campaign. Many hoped that it would induce respect for women’s human rights in every aspect of the work. Today, there is little ground for optimism.
The senior leadership of Amnesty International chose to answer the questions I posed about Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg by affirming their links with him. Now they have also confirmed that the views of Begg, his associates and his organisation Cageprisoners, do not trouble them. They have stated that the idea of jihad in self defence is not antithetical to human rights; and have explained that they meant only the specific form of violent jihad that Moazzam Begg and others in Cageprisoners assert is the individual obligation of every Muslim.
I thank the senior leadership for these admissions and for their further clarification that concerns around the legitimization of Begg were of very long standing and that there was strong opposition from Head of the Asia programme to a partnership with him. When disagreements are profound, it is best that disputes over matters of fact, are reduced.
Unfortunately, their stance has laid waste every achievement on women’s equality and made a mockery of the universality of rights. In fact, the leadership has effectively rejected a belief in universality as an essential basis for partnership.
Her emphasis on universality is the key point, and she puts it all very well. As the slippery Tariq Ramadan said at a lunch I once attended, "If they are Western valuess, how can they be universal?", emphasizing the problem in another way; this purportedly moderate Muslim indicated exactly his lack of adherence to the principles in question, of course while trying not to indicate it clearly.
Amnesty International has sacrificed its soul to suck up to jihadists. Who, of the organizations I once respected, and in this case, even contributed to, is next?
This actually affected me yesterday watching yet anothere debate on the foofraw at the Canadian Rights and Democracy organization, as the CBC cited a statement by Amnesty International, question the appointment of its new president. What an interesting butt of timing as that kerfuffle to some degree arose from a perception of it sucking up to jihadists. As a result, a statement I once might have paid some attention to I simply dismissed with justificattion.


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