Four legs good two legs bad

Karima Bennoune thinks human rights groups shouldn’t portray Anwar al-Awlaki as a nice liberal guy.

Bennoune pointed out that Awlaki published an article in al-Qaida’s English language magazine, Inspire, in July openly calling for assassinations of several people, including a young woman cartoonist in Seattle and Salman Rushdie. This was at around the time the CCR was offering to represent Awlaki’s father, she said.

Bennoune, who is of Algerian descent, also expressed fears that the CCR and the ACLU were in danger of “sanitising” Awlaki to western audiences.

“Since the inception of the case,” she said, “there has been increased mystification of who Anwar al-Awlaki is in liberal and human rights circles in the United States. This may in part have resulted from the fact that a highly reputable organisation like CCR was willing to represent his interests, and described him only as ‘a Muslim cleric’ or ‘an American citizen’, and repeatedly suggested that the government did not possess evidence against Awlaki.”

Gita Sahgal also thinks this is a problem.

Karima Bennoune’s public criticism of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU’s case in defence of Anwar al-Awlaki is a welcome stand for a universal vision of human rights that has largely gone missing from western human rights organisations.

Many Asian, African and Middle Eastern groups and organisations who are struggling against both state and non-state violence feel utterly betrayed by the deliberately ignorant and partial stands taken by organisations in the US and Britain which are supposed to represent human rights. Their outrage was ignored or attacked by the left in Britain. The three founders of Amnesty International in Algeria were allegedly expelled from the organisation for raising an internal complaint about Amnesty’s failure, in their view, to criticise atrocities committed by Islamist rebels, as opposed to government repression, as Algerian feminist Marieme Helie Lucas made public for the first time earlier this year.

A familiar and depressing pattern.

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