Let’s be practical about Shamima Begum │ Jake Scott
British media has blown up over the last few days about the revelation of Shamima Begum, the London schoolgirl who, at the age of 15, fled the UK to join ISIS in their murderous rampage across the Middle East, and now wishes to return. Her plea to return (apparently) revolves around concern for her unborn child after her two children died in the last IS stronghold in Syria, Baghuz.
The current debate around immigration, migration, refugees and returning jihadists has been made toxic on both wings of the debate, due to the simplification and polarisation of the issue into the “Open Border” vs. “Muslim Ban” argument. In America, the argument rages more loudly, but here I believe the issue of Ms. Begum will become a crystallising moment in the debate, where we begin to follow either one path or the other.
Those who believe she should be allowed back into the country preach compassion – a trait Ms. Begum seems to lack, in her claim that seeing a severed head in a bin “did not faze her” – that we must seek to rehabilitate Begum, and that if she is repentant (which she clearly is not) she should be allowed a second chance. No serious commentator has yet dared to suggest her “human right to asylum” ought to remain intact, but I fear this is coming.
Let us be practical. First, where exactly is Ms. Begum meant to be rehabilitated? Clearly, she was radicalised in London, and to allow her to return there would not be an intelligent move, least of all because of the message it sends to other radicals. But a prison is not the right place either – most gaols in the UK are breeding grounds for radicalism, especially those who have broken terror laws, and Begum could either have her views reinforced, or become a radical preacher herself.
Second, this woman (because she is a woman now, no longer the naïve schoolgirl who left in 2015) clearly does not believe what she did was wrong. This is evident in her language, and her motive for returning: her unborn child will be safer here, she claims, but I wonder why she has such concern for this child yet not for the two who died in Baghuz; but also, despite believing IS did not “deserve” victory – for their corruption, apparently, not their bastard ideology – she claims she did not regret going to Raqqa, where she married a Dutch convert.
Then there is the girl’s family, who claims the unborn child is a “total innocent” who has the “right to grow up in the peace and security of the UK”. Let’s make one thing clear: no-one has the right to bring their child to this country. They have the opportunity to do so, should our government see fit to provide it, but to frame such opportunity and freedom as a “right” is to paralyse the Home Office into inaction, and compel the British government into action.
I urge everyone with a modicum of sense to not put principles over pragmatism, and not see this girl as symbolic of the wider debate, but for what she is: complicit in the spread of a murderous ideology that has ruined the relations between Muslims and other religions in the Middle East, and elsewhere.