UK Labour hope­ful aim­ing to win PM John­son’s seat once backed ad­vo­cacy body that sparked fury with ISIS claim

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - JAMIE PRENTIS Lon­don

A prospec­tive Labour MP hop­ing to un­seat Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son in De­cem­ber’s UK gen­eral elec­tion pre­vi­ously gave public back­ing for the con­tro­ver­sial ad­vo­cacy group Cage as it cam­paigned against Bri­tain’s anti-ex­trem­ism pol­icy.

Ali Mi­lani signed a state­ment in 2015 crit­i­cis­ing the pres­i­dent of the UK’s Na­tional Union of Stu­dents for re­fus­ing to work with Cage, which is heav­ily against the govern­ment’s counter-ter­ror­ism strat­egy and its of­fi­cial Pre­vent pro­gramme.

Cage was crit­i­cised in 2015 when a mem­ber said Mo­hammed Emwazi, the Bri­tish ISIS mem­ber whose be­head­ings of jour­nal­ists and aid work­ers in Syria shocked the world, was once a “beau­ti­ful young man”.

The group sug­gested that Emwazi had been rad­i­calised by ha­rass­ment from the UK’s se­cu­rity ser­vices. Cage has since ad­mit­ted it failed to suf­fi­ciently dis­tance it­self from Emwazi’s ac­tions.

Mr John­son, who was Lon­don mayor at the time, said: “If you are a hu­man rights group funded by char­ity then you should be stick­ing up for the hu­man rights of those who have been be­headed in Syria and in north­ern Iraq. That should be the fo­cus of your con­cern.”

Cage em­ploys Moaz­zam Begg, a for­mer Guan­tanamo in­mate. An­war Al Awlaki, who has been ac­cused of be­ing a se­nior fig­ure in Al Qaeda, ad­dressed Cage gath­er­ings by video link and was in­ter­viewed by Begg be­fore he died in a US drone strike in 2011.

Mr Mi­lani will have to over­turn a near-5,000 ma­jor­ity to un­seat Mr John­son.

“For all of my adult life I have lived here, stud­ied here and worked here. Like so many of us in the com­mu­nity I have felt the full im­pact of eight years of Boris John­son and suc­ces­sive Tory gov­ern­ments,” Mr Mi­lani’s web­site says.

He faced ac­cu­sa­tions of be­ing anti-Semitic in com­ments made on so­cial me­dia as a teenager – re­marks he has since apol­o­gised for and re­tracted.

Mr Mi­lani was ap­proached for com­ment by The Na­tional but has not re­sponded.

The UK govern­ment’s Pre­vent strat­egy im­poses a duty on schools, health au­thor­i­ties and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to re­port those they fear may be be­com­ing rad­i­calised.

It has proven to be deeply di­vi­sive, with crit­ics say­ing it is racist and restricts free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

But sup­port­ers of the counter-ter­ror­ism strat­egy ques­tion what the al­ter­na­tive to Pre­vent is.

Cage de­scribes it as toxic and is cam­paign­ing against an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the pol­icy.

Ali Mi­lani signed a state­ment in 2015 sup­port­ing Cage

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