CAGE and American Islamist allies launch report damning the “War on Terror”
On October 7, 2021, British Islamist advocacy group, CAGE, co-launched a new report, The Terror Trap, “to mark 20 years of the Global War on Terror”. The other “civil society and research organizations” that launched the report include:
- The Coalition for Civil Freedoms
- The Bridge Initiative
- The Council for Social Justice of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
- The Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA)
- The Muslim Justice League (MJL), and
- United Voices for America
Three of these groups have Islamist connections, some of which are highlighted below.
The press release for the report states:
In The Terror Trap: The Impact of the War on Terror on Muslim Communities Since 9/11, thirty international scholars provide a critical assessment of the U.S-led “counterterrorism” apparatus and its policies and tactics, which have criminalized and securitized Muslims in the U.S. and around the world.
The report examines the various dimensions of the so-called War on Terror, and its devastating impact on communities and nations worldwide. Some of the topics explored include the racist history of targeting minorities in the U.S.; the roots of the “terrorism” industry; the role of the Islamophobia industry in exploiting post-9/11 fears; the restructuring of the national security and surveillance state; the use of torture, rendition, black sites, Guantanamo Bay prison, and drone warfare; Countering Violent Extremism programs; the destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the destruction of Muslim civil liberties through the policies of infiltration, entrapment, and manufacturing crime; and further repression of American Muslims through the use of “terrorism” sentencing enhancement and discriminatory prison conditions.
Accompanying the launch of this report, CAGE and partners planned a live-streamed, two-day conference for Monday, October 18 and Tuesday, October 19. These were billed to include six roundtable discussions with 24 of the report’s contributors. The coalition partners, the press release said, “will hold a virtual congressional briefing on the impact of the War on Terror on American Muslims and present policy recommendations”. These were planned to include “the passage of a proposed bill that would end some of the most egregious abuses of the post-9/11 era”. The press release also stated that there will be “community briefings based on The Terror Trap in local communities around the country and in Europe”.
Coalition partners’ Islamist connections
Three of CAGE’s partners in this coalition have connections with Islamist extremist or terrorist groups:
The Council for Social Justice of the Islamic Society of North America (ICNA-CSJ)
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) was founded by Muslims from the Indian sub-continent in the early 1970s. Belying its Islamist orientations, the required reading list for ICNA’s members emphasises works by Jamaat-i-Islami founder Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maududi; the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi; and other Islamists who have expounded Islamic supremacist views. ICNA’s charter echoes such views, making explicit its goal as the “establishment of the Islamic system of life” in the world, “whether it pertains to beliefs, rituals and morals or to economic, social or political spheres”. ICNA’s 2010 Member’s Handbook includes the oath for new members: “I affirm that the establishment of Allah’s Deen [way of life] in this world is the goal of my life. I am joining ICNA for the achievement of this very purpose”.
An extensive report by the Investigative Project on Terrorism from 2019 details ICNA’s alleged Islamist extremism, including its promotion of extremist texts, and its hosting of events with extremist speakers, such as Yusuf Islahi, who has reportedly blamed the Jews for the 9/11 attacks. The report asserts:
ICNA’s partnership with Muslim Brotherhood groups continues to this day, most visibly through its national conventions it co-sponsors with the Muslim American Society (MAS) that feature radical speakers who advocate jihad, advocate on behalf of Kashmiri separatists, and call for Israel’s elimination.
The report also describes how ICNA’s Council for Social Justice (ICNA-CSJ) has defended convicted or suspected Islamist terrorists and downplayed the role of ideology in the radicalisation of Islamist terrorists.
ICNA’s sister organisation, the charity Helping Hand for Relief and Development, has reportedly partnered with designated terrorists, such as the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), designated in 2016 by the American Treasury Department. FIF is the charitable wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In June 2020, after the death of George Floyd, the New Jersey branch of ICNA-CSJ, partnered with the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial, and long associated with the Muslim Brotherhood – to hold a rally “to protest police brutality”.
The Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA)
CIGA is based in Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University and headed by Sami Al-Arian. In 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of “Conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Specially Designated Terrorist”. He was deported to Turkey in 2015, as a condition for his plea, after serving prison time. In the 1990s, Al-Arian was an academic at the University of South Florida, where he was recorded on video exclaiming,
The Qur’an is our constitution, Jihad is our path, victory to Islam, death to Israel; revolution, revolution ‘til the victory!
He seems to have maintained these views. In a panel discussion in December 2020, Al-Arian said that the global Muslim community, the ummah, cannot realize its full potential without “defeating and dismantling the Zionist project”. He added,
We cannot attain our real independence without dealing with the problem of Israel … as long as Israel exists, the ummah will stay weak and fragmented, and disunited and divided and dependent and under control.
The Muslim Justice League (MJL)
Despite its name, the Muslim Justice League describes itself as “a rights-based, not a faith-based organization”. According to its founder, Stephanie Marzouk, MJL was founded in Boston, U.S., in 2014 to fight against countering violent extremism (CVE) programmes. Marzouk has reportedly argued that American Muslims should refuse to give aid to the police investigating Islamist terror plots against their fellow Americans.
Marzouk has also advocated for Tarek Mehanna, who, in 2011, received a 17 year sentence for providing material support to Al-Qaeda, plotting to kill Americans, and lying to the FBI. Marzouk described Mehanna as unfairly prosecuted and the target of an anti-Muslim witch hunt by an Obama administration. According to the Department of Justice, Mehanna, translated pro-jihadist literature to reach and inspire an English-language audience. And “[o]n multiple occasions Mehanna expressed support and indeed reverence for al Qa’ida and other terrorist leaders, and encouraged others to hear and be inspired by their words and videos.” Mehanna was allegedly involved in the media operations of Al-Qaeda in Iraq with Ahmad Abousamra, a dual American-Syrian citizen, who was placed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list in 2013 and later suspected of being the mastermind behind the slick media operations of the Islamic State.
In June 2017, MJL formed a coalition of American activist groups, including the Massachusetts branch of unindicted co-conspirator CAIR, and demanded that the Boston Police Department (BPD) “end participation in so-called countering violent extremism programs” and “[c]ease collaboration with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force”. The coalition also demanded that BPD “avoid involvement in outreach programs that suggest lawful behaviors or ideas” – such as “religious beliefs and practices” – “are precursors to crime”.
Around the same time MSJ produced a leaflet called “Structural Anti-Muslim Targeting: A Brief Overview”. This said of the UK’s counter-radicalisation programme, Prevent, that it “has forced social services professionals to engage in surveillance, institutionalized bullying and chilled use of health and other social services”.
 IPT Investigative Report: Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), June 2019, https://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/1058.pdf. On Islahi, see pp.7-8.
 Ibid., pp.90-91. Sources are provided in the report.
 ibid., p.11.