Teenage Terrorists

I’ve just read that Shamima Begum has lost her legal appeal against the government’s decision to remove her British citizenship, on account of her running away from Bethnal Green to Syria to join Isis when she was fifteen years old. It’s arguable that she was ‘trafficked’ there. She gave birth to three children in Syria, all of whom died, fathered (as I understand it) by Islamic terrorists. She’s now 23. She wants to return to Britain, but now can’t – unless there are further legal paths she can pursue.

I don’t know enough about her to tell whether she deserves any sympathy from us. A recent article in the Spectator by someone who did know her is pretty uncomplimentary (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/shamima-begum-is-no-victim-and-i-should-know/). But that shouldn’t matter. It has long been understood that citizenship is inalienable, and that no-one can be left technically ‘stateless’ against his or her will. (The British Home Office claims that she could apply for Bangladeshi nationality through her mother; but – as I understand it – Bangladesh has disputed that.) She herself was born in Britain. She has expressed a willingness to be tried for her supposed (and likely) crimes, as a British citizen in a British court. That should surely be enough.

I’m sure the political Right in Britain, our Home Secretary, and of course the tabloid press, will be delighted at her exclusion: all part of their beloved ‘hostile environment’ policy. But it seems to me to be neither very civilised, nor very Christian, for a country whose ‘Christianity’ the Right makes great play of. It must be wrong morally, if not strictly – ? – in international law. Besides this, Shamima was only fifteen when she absconded, and living in a pretty squalid refugee camp presently. And who can know what really goes on in the mind of any fifteen-year old? (I’ve had three of them.) And, more to the point: how they can change in adulthood – ‘grow up’?

It so happens that I know a Swedish woman with a similar history, although somewhat earlier; who was allowed back into Sweden, and ever since has been a model Swedish citizen. She recently published a book about her experiences: ‘My Beloved Terrorist’ (in Swedish). (I’ve been trying to get a British publisher interested in having it translated. Here is the reference: https://www.bokus.com/bok/9789113074276/alskade-terrorist-16-ar-med-militanta-islamister/.) Now, I don’t know how different Anna’s situation was from Shamima’s; but it surely indicates that adolescent (or early twenties) terrorists don’t necessarily stay that way. The true measure of both justice and charity is that they are applied to people we disapprove of, especially for their boyish and girlish indiscretions, as well as to those with whom we agree. Like Anna, Shamima might well have gone on to justify Britain’s Christian generosity, and hence bolstered our national pride; far more than ‘hostile environmentalism’ could ever do.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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1 Response to Teenage Terrorists

  1. But it seems to me to be neither very civilised, nor very Christian, for a country whose ‘Christianity’ the Right makes great play of.
    Good point, Bernard.


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