Understanding CAGE: A Public Information Dossier

By Hannah Stuart

This report reveals the pro-terrorist ideology of the ‘Jihadi John’-sympathising lobby group CAGE and highlights group’s inaccurate claims about government counter-terrorism measures.

Understanding-CAGE examines the ideology, campaigns and support network of the lobby group most commonly known for statements about the role of the security services in the radicalisation of Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi.

The report comes after CAGE director of research Asim Qureshi and spokesperson Cerie Bullivant presented their work to a counter-terrorism workshop organised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a global intergovernmental security body funded indirectly by the UK tax-payer.


The publication’s findings include:


Evidence of a long-standing jihadist ideology  

  • As well as supporting terrorism suspects, CAGE has campaigned on behalf of convicted terrorists and supported prominent jihadist ideologues while Qureshi has personally advocated supporting violent jihad overseas.
  • Formerly known as Cageprisoners, the group has published material which states that freeing Muslim prisoners of war, i.e. those captured during jihadist-related conflicts rather than Muslim prisoners in general, is an Islamic duty. For example, CAGE continues to publish al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s endorsement of the group: “The brothers and sisters at Cageprisoners are fulfilling the order of RasulAllah [‘the messenger of God’]”.
  • A 2003 CAGE translation of a Saudi sermon, described by CAGE as “outstanding”, states that prisoners captured during jihadist-related conflicts are deserving of praise – “they are the ones who went forth to raise the flag of Jihad; they are the ones who went forth to aid their brethren” and recommends, “Announc[ing] Jihad against the heads of disbelief in order to secure the[ir] release”.


Misleading campaigns

  • CAGE campaigns against criminalising fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, claiming that the threat they pose has been exaggerated and that only 9% of individuals involved in terrorism plots in the UK since 9/11 had received prior terrorist training or combat experience abroad. HJS analysis of all Islamism-inspired terrorism offences and suicide attacks in the UK between 1999 and 2010, however, shows that one in five individuals involved had prior training/combat experience abroad; and that seven of the eight major terrorism bomb plots during this time contained individual cell members who had either fought or trained abroad.
  • CAGE claims that UK terrorism legislation is used disproportionately against Muslims and Muslim offenders are given longer sentences than their non-Muslim counterparts. These allegations are not supported by either HJS or Home Office analysis. Home Office data on all terrorism-related convictions since 9/11 have terrorism to non-terrorism legislation ratio of 3:2, while convictions specifically for Islamism-inspired offences (between 1999 and 2010) are evenly split between terrorism and non-terrorism legislation.


Wide-reaching support network

  • A CAGE fundraising event on 6 March 2015 featured speakers from a variety of Muslim groups and extremist organisations pledging their support for CAGE in response to recent criticism. This included the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), a student group criticised by the coalition government for not taking a clear stand against extremism; the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to create an expansionist Islamist state; and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK, a pressure group accused of anti-Semitism.
  • A common theme was the assertion that both British Muslims and Islamic belief and practice are under attack from the British government and that CAGE should be supported for undertaking a religious duty incumbent on all Muslims to defend their co-religionists. CAGE spokesperson Fahad Ansari said, “each and every one of us is a terror suspect, it may not be now, it may have been yesterday, but we certainly will be tomorrow, the way things are heading”.


Hannah Stuart, HJS Research Fellow and author of the report, said:


“CAGE has long said that it campaigns solely for due process for Muslim detainees, both in the UK and around the world. Our evidence shows that the group believes in freeing Muslim prisoners accused or convicted of jihadist terrorism as a religious duty. 

“CAGE’s view on foreign fighters is based on inaccurate figures about the level of blowback from jihadist conflicts. Here in the UK, CAGE campaigns against all elements of counter-terrorism policies, falsely telling British Muslim audiences that the government is criminalising their religion, yet in Europe the OSCE treats them as authorities on countering terrorism.

“CAGE stokes fear and distrust of British institutions and counter-terrorism policies. The group encourages British Muslims to feel like second-class citizens, thereby creating the very ‘us and them’ narrative it claims demonises them.”


Understanding CAGE: A Public Information Dossier is available to download here


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