Published on RT 16 July 2020: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/494976-shamima-begum-isis-uk-trial/
Why is the UK more concerned about Shamima Begum’s citizenship than bringing her to justice? It is essential she faces a jury in a British court, so the public can fully understand why traiterous behaviour is unacceptable.
I agree with the Court of Appeal’s ruling that Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to fight the decision to remove her citizenship. The decision to revoke it was wrong, and not allowing her to return to Britain was ill-judged, because it deprived the public of the right to pass judgement on her traitorous behaviour.
What’s at issue is not simply Begum’s right to fight for the return of her citizenship, but also the importance of holding to account those who have apparently betrayed their national community.
Five years ago, Begum – then aged 15 – was one of three schoolgirls who left London to join the Islamic State group in Syria. To this day, she does not appear to regret her decision to commit an apparent act of treason and join and support a terrorist death cult comprising some of her nation’s sworn enemies.
Last year, she stated in an interview that the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena, which led to the murder of 22 Ariana Grande fans, constituted a justified retaliation for the bombing of Syria. In another interview, she said that she was non-plussed by the sight of severed heads in a bin. Although she demands the rights accorded to a citizen of Britain, by her own account she remains an enemy of this nation.
One reason why the trial of Begum could be important for society is that British culture no longer takes seriously the fundamental importance of loyalty and the threat posed by treasonous behaviour. Britain’s cultural elites have become estranged from the ideals of duty and loyalty, and seem to believe that acts of treason are not a big deal.
Commentaries on Shamima Begum often treat her as an errant child who has lost her way. Instead of holding her responsible for her actions, she is frequently described as a victim. “ShamimaBegum was the victim of a cult – she needs help,”insisted one journalist in the Guardian. It appears that many influential commentators cannot understand that she, like many idealistic young Muslims, consciously rejected the society where she grew up, took the initiative and chose the other side. Her allegiance is to Islamic State, not to Britain.
Instead of treating her as a self-conscious traitor, many commentators have adopted the social work narrative of child protection to suggest that she was not responsible for her actions. They frequently employ the language of child abuse to imply that this otherwise innocent girl was ‘groomed’ by ISIS operatives to become a member of this movement. The social work narrative of grooming is sometimes complemented by commentaries that suggest that she was likely traumatised by the experience of seeing people’s chopped-off heads.
Is it any surprise that Begum’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, has accused the British government of ‘failing’ to protect her from being ‘groomed for exploitation and trafficked internationally’ by Islamic State? Akunjee has also pointed the finger of blame at Tower Hamlets Council for failing to launch a serious case review – an action which is usually initiated when a child has been abused and suffered serious harm.
That so many commentators have bought into the victim narrative surrounding Begum is not surprising. Contemporary culture cannot grasp the fact that, as in the past, many young people today decide to embrace a radical cause.
British society infantilises the young to the point that it regards them as victims rather than responsible agents. Many members of the cultural elites cannot bring themselves to associate the behaviour of young people with an act of treason. Nor do they take the gravity of treason seriously.
We do not need a show trial. But we do need Shamima Begum to face a jury in a British court. If she is found guilty, our society can begin to learn what treason in the 21st century looks like.