There has been, understandably, much discussion and debate recently over the case of Shamima Begum, the teenage girl who left the UK to become the wife of an ISIS fighter in the now defunct Islamic Caliphate. The debate centres around her decision to leave her east London home at the age of fifteen, and thus still a child in legal terms, and head for the Middle East and having done so, now seeks to return to the UK.
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, stripped the teenager of her British Citizenship last week, on the basis that she also had Bangladeshi citizenship, although that country has said she does not. If that is so, then Shamima Begum has been rendered stateless, which is illegal under International Law.
The question of her having dual nationality however, is really rather beside the point. Whether we like it or not, Shamima Begum is British. The question is; did she herself renounce her citizenship by going to marry an ISIS fighter and leaving the UK? The answer, again whether we like it or not, is no, she did not.
I do not subscribe to the view that this young woman should be welcomed back with open arms and given all that she needs to start a new life; neither do I agree with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he says she should be given ‘the support that she needs’. However, I cannot be the only one who looks upon this entire case with some disquiet. I find the comments made by some Tory MPs quite revealing, particularly those who suggested that Corbyn is ‘out of touch with the public mood’. The question of Shamima Begum was, unsurprisingly, raised on BBC1’s Question Time and the volume of applause for those who spoke against allowing Begum to return to the UK was quite marked, so comments about ‘the public mood’ are not without foundation. But what is it the public want? Quite obviously not this woman back in the country of her birth. And that is the key – she was born here. She is British. It raises another question; what would ‘the public mood’ be if her name was Susan Smith or Janet Jones and she was of white, Anglo-Saxon heritage?
So she is a British problem. It is thus our task to deal with it. Once more, whether we like it or not.
Sajid Javid’s stripping Begum of her British citizenship was nothing more than a populist act, designed to show how ‘in tune’ he is. Put another way, it is something he will use in a probable bid to become Prime Minister at some point, burnishing his credentials with the public. The same applies to Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks about giving her support. Both are simply trying to position themselves favourably with somebody (as are those Tory MPs), rather than doing what is right. And what is right is not necessarily popular.
Let’s suggest for a moment that Begum remains where she is, or is placed somewhere else, anywhere will do as long as it is not here. What you then have is an inevitably embittered young woman with a grudge to bear. That would seem to represent something of a greater threat than having her back in the UK where we can keep an eye on her and deal with what caused the problem in the first place – which is the influence brought to bear on teenagers by those outside their own family and for that matter, the apparent lack of parental supervision that allowed that influence to happen at all.
I have said before that too many parents do not take enough responsibility for what their children do, who they associate with and how they pursue that association. And it is an unfortunate fact that, for all the good that immigration has given the UK, there are still too many who have not integrated properly to British society.
That is not entirely the fault of the immigrant – there are, once again, too many instances of immigrant families not being allowed to integrate by too many native British people. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that racism plays its part in all of this. If you combine a racist attitude towards those of a non-Christian, non-white background with an unwillingness to properly integrate on the part of some who come to live here, the result is teenagers like Shemima Begum.
It is all very well to suggest that she has ‘rejected’ the UK but should we not be asking why? Find the answer to that and you will do two things; the first is to go some way to ensuring that teenage girls like Begum do not turn their backs on the country of their birth and secondly, perhaps more importantly, do something to prevent the pernicious influence of those who really are a danger from doing so to start with.
Shemima Begum is still British. Bring her back to her country and if she has broken the law of her country then charge her with the appropriate offence and if found guilty, impose the appropriate punishment.
For it is that, our willingness to be lawful, and yes for most of us to be tolerant as well (although not ‘soft’), that separates us from the kind of society that a fifteen-year-old child was unduly influenced into travelling to.
© Kevan James 2019
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