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