Moazzam Begg to speak at NUS-organised event tour (Update: NUS statement)

UPDATE 04/09/2015: An NUS statement released to the Daily Mail has claimed that:

“The events are being run as a coalitions with a number of other organisations, we are a large organisation and represent a wide diversity of views, some of our officers with different views have chosen to work with the coalition”.

In July, the Prime Minister criticised the National Union of Students (NUS) for pledging to work with CAGE, saying it: “shame[s] your organisation and your noble history of campaigning for justice”.

This saw the NUS release a response in which it attacked the Prime Minister’s claim, arguing that: “as previously and categorically stated, we will not work with CAGE in any capacity”.

A statement from May, meanwhile, had claimed that suggestions the NUS would work with the group were “highly misleading”, and that “NUS will not work with CAGE”.

It also said that:

“CAGE is a deeply problematic organisation. It is clear that its leaders have sympathised with violent extremism, and violence against women, and people associated with the group have sympathised with anti-Semitism”.

The utter hypocrisy of these claims was exposed this week, as senior officers at the NUS have widely promoted a series of events called ‘Students Not Suspects’ due to take place in October.

Part of the NUS campaign to undermine Prevent, and organised by a coalition including the NUS and NUS Black Students’ Campaign, three of the events will feature CAGE Outreach Director Moazzam Begg.

A terrorism case against Begg collapsed in October 2014, but he accepted he had been in Syria training fighters – and was recorded criticising recruits, saying:

“…they want to call it martyrdom but I said we have to be physically prepared. If you don’t prepare this just becomes suicide, not martyrdom”.

Begg has also admitted to visiting militant training camps on the Afghan-Pakistan border, and has admitted to fighting in Bosnia in the 1990s.

He will also be joined at one of the events by Simon Pook, the solicitor of convicted terrorist Munir Farooqi.

Both men recently appeared at an event calling for Farooqi’s release, which referred to him as “an innocent victim” who had been “framed” – and which was also promoted by the NUS Black Students’ Campaign.

That the NUS has chosen to work with Begg, and by extension CAGE, on this tour demonstrates the extent to which its policy on Prevent has aligned with the very extremists the strategy seeks to challenge.

It also highlights the hypocrisy of an organisation which simultaneously claims not to work with CAGE while inviting its senior staff members to address students.

Until the NUS stops working with groups like CAGE, and parroting the group’s narratives on Prevent, it should continue to face serious questions about the extent to which it is part of the problem on campuses.

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