STEPHEN GLOVER: The jihadi bride is a monster, but she’s OUR monster and must return home to face British justice
Do we think the Home Secretary was right to strip 19-year-old Islamic State bride Shamima Begum of her British citizenship? My guess is that most people will reckon Sajid Javid is absolutely spot on.
Begum is a traitor to her country and very possibly a psychopath. In various recent interviews, she has demonstrated her continued allegiance to the warped values of ISIS, which is mounting a last-ditch stand in Syria.
Of course we don’t want her back here! Let her rot in Syria, or in whichever godforsaken place she ends up, as a punishment for turning her back on this country and consorting with its brutal enemies.
Shamima Begum interview with ITV news
And yet I’m sorry to say that Mr Javid’s treatment of this wretched woman is probably not lawful and it is certainly not right. She should be brought back to this country, and held to account for whatever crimes she may have committed.
Let’s first examine why it’s very likely that the Home Secretary is acting unlawfully. Begum is British. I regret this, in view of her behaviour, but it happens to be the case. She is as British as I am. Mr Javid can’t change that.
He has hit on the idea of claiming she had — until deprived of her British passport — dual Bangladeshi citizenship. This is a necessary fiction, so far as Mr Javid is concerned, because he is legally not entitled to render her stateless. She has theoretically to belong to one country.
But why is she Bangladeshi? Because, says Mr Javid, her mother holds a Bangladeshi passport. But that does not make the daughter a subject of that country.
Some critics of Mr Javid’s action say that Begum has never been to Bangladesh. That’s not the point. After all, she appears to have fitted in very happily in Syria, which she had never visited until she travelled there with two friends in 2015.
No, the question that should concern us is not how alien Bangladesh might seem to her, though the authorities there yesterday kiboshed the idea that she would ever be allowed to visit the country. All that matters is that — most unfortunately, as I say — she is British.
Why can’t the Home Secretary grasp this? Because he wants to teach her, and others like her, a lesson. It’s also practically guaranteed that this ambitious man hopes to endear himself to members of Tory constituency associations, whose support he will need if he is going to become leader of his party.
ITV News of Shamima Begum, 19, in a Syrian refugee camp, being shown a copy of the Home Office letter which stripped her of her British citizenship
That’s how politicians behave. I don’t say he is acting cynically. He genuinely wants to punish Shamima Begum, and it’s to his credit that, coming as he does from a Muslim background, he is prepared to be draconian towards an aberrant member of the same faith.
My main objection is that by doing so he is introducing a dangerous concept of two classes of British citizenship, which could be disquieting to hundreds of thousands of people born in this country as the children of immigrants. In effect, he is saying that Begum is not entirely British because her mother was born in Bangladesh. But that must be wrong. She is entirely British because she was born here.
If I were the British-born son of, say, Jamaican immigrants, I might well feel that Mr Javid’s line of reasoning could potentially be used in other circumstances to question my citizenship of this country.
So the Home Secretary is skating on very treacherous ice. I will be astonished if the courts find in his favour when his ruling is challenged by Begum’s lawyers.
But this is not just about the law. I believe Mr Javid is morally at fault in trying to kick the issue of Shamima Begum and her wrongdoing into someone else’s backyard.
Shamima Begum, 15, who fled the UK to join the Islamic State terror group in Syria aged 15
As I see it, the woman has acted against the interests of her country, which is why I describe her a traitor. She should therefore be required to answer for her behaviour in front of British interrogators and, if there is a criminal case to answer, as seems very likely, in a British court.
This is what happened to a (thankfully small) number of British citizens who betrayed their country during World War II. Their crimes were not swept under a carpet and they weren’t invited to wander the world unpunished — which is essentially Mr Javid’s prescription for Begum.
Of course, I can’t be sure that a criminal case could successfully be mounted against her which would result in her being jailed for a very long time, which is what I hope would happen. But it seems a highly probable outcome.
During media interviews over the past few days, she has spoken of seeing a severed head in a bin during her time with ISIS, which, she said with creepy detachment, ‘didn’t faze me at all’.
And she has shown how cold-hearted and morally deficient she is by asserting that the terror attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, which killed 22 people, was ‘retaliation’ for ‘women and children’ being bombed in Syria.
It’s hard to believe that she was not guilty of serious crimes during her four-year sojourn with Islamic State, and that she doesn’t have a good deal of information about how that wicked organisation operates.
The more I think about it, the surer I am that Shamima Begum should be required to give the authorities (and by extension her fellow Britons) an account of her appalling conduct.
I’d even go so far as to say that if, by some miracle, it could be proved she has dual British-Bangladeshi citizenship (as Lord Carlile, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, appears to believe she has), she should still be made to return to these shores to face the music.
A video grab taken from CCTV, received from the Metropolitan Police Service on February 23, 2015, shows Shamima Begum passing through security barriers at Gatwick Airport, south of London
My argument rests on the fact that she is British, and that she has an obligation (as well as a right) to submit herself to the British system of justice rather than festering in a refugee camp in Syria.
It might well be that, if she were to return, her newborn baby would be taken away from her, as has happened in similar cases with other women. It is certain that she would have to submit to a de-radicalisation programme, as she has said she would expect to do.
So I am definitely not advocating a soft option. Rather the opposite, in fact. For as things stand, Begum is being cut adrift rather than formally punished, let loose instead of being forced to explain herself.
And don’t imagine she will be the last such case. One of the two friends she fled to Syria with is believed to be dead, the other alive. If she survives the inevitable rout, she will soon be in a similar predicament to Begum, complete with children.
Will Sajid Javid wash his hands of them and others? I’m afraid he has made a terrible mistake. But there is still time for him to extricate himself from the hole he is digging for himself.
Shamima Begum is a monster. But she is our monster. She must come to terms with what she has done, and we must come to terms with the awful truth that there are others like her who are British.
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