In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, the Washington Post ran a four-part series by men and women who had their “lives shattered and transformed by” the terror master. One of the contributors was especially curious: former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg.
I have written about Begg on a number of occasions before, so what follows will not be new for some readers. But apparently it will be new for the Post’s editors, who don’t seem to mind giving over their pages to a jihadist.
Here are five reasons the Post should have thought twice before giving Moazzam Begg space to comment.
Reason #1: Moazzam Begg and his organization, Cageprisoners, have proselytized on behalf of al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki and spread jihadist propaganda.
To give you a sense of what Begg and Cageprisoners are all about, the organization’s web site currently features a “purely fictional” account entitled, “Breaking News: Barack Obama Is Dead.” This twisted feature includes a doctored photo of President Obama, who is called an “American War Criminal,” disfigured by gunfire. Thus, while the rest of the world is celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, Cageprisoners is pining – as a joke, they’d surely tell you!- for the death of America’s president.
This is not terribly surprising.
As Alexander Hitchens of the Centre for Social Cohesion in the UK has thoroughly documented (PDF) previously, Begg and Cageprisoners have a longstanding relationship with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Cageprisoners lobbied to free Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast a live message from Awlaki during a fundraising event, reproduced Awlaki’s propaganda on its web site, and published friendly interviews with him. Begg conducted these interviews with fawning questions for the al Qaeda imam. The effect of Cageprisoners’ work was to spread Awlaki’s hateful and dangerous message in the UK – which Awlaki has repeatedly targeted as a recruiting ground.
The disgusting presidential death fantasy and relationship with Awlaki are just some of the ways Cageprisoners has worked to spread anti-American, pro-jihadist propaganda. The group’s web site contains everything from denunciations of the drone campaign in northern Pakistan, to spreading disinformation in the service of al Qaeda operatives. And Begg once agreed to be the poster boy for a first-person shooter video game in which players would be able to blast their way out Guantanamo, killing virtual American soldiers in the process.
Reason #2: Moazzam Begg’s own book confirms he is a jihadist.
In 2006, along with former Guardian journalist Victoria Brittain, Begg coauthored a supposedly autobiographical account of his life entitled, Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar. The book is, as one would expect, entirely self-serving. Begg tries to downplay his nefarious activities to the greatest extent possible (denying any substantive ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban) while portraying his American captors in the worst possible light.
But even in this highly selective and deceptive account, Begg’s belief in violent jihad shines through. For instance, Begg writes:
Linguistically, jihad means ‘struggle’, the word that some scholars had attempted to confine its meaning to. They said that it was restricted only to the struggle within, the nafs, the inner self. Whilst that was partly true, I learned that throughout history – from the time of the Prophet, and the first Caliphates – up until modern times, the majority of Muslims (and the non-Muslims they used it on) always understood jihad as warfare.