Words by Miles … – Debating Society 

20 years on from the attacks of September 11th 2001, the discourse surrounding terror and Islamic fundamentalism has changed markedly since. Recently, The West has seen a time of reflection in which many recognise the toxic and harmful rhetoric that followed against muslims. For many, this rhetoric would brand Shamima Begum as a traitor to her country – or perhaps as a terrorist – or maybe a threat to national security. While there are serious discussions to be had on national security and terrorism, it is not ridiculous to say she should not be part of these larger exchanges. Instead, she should be seen as an individual within the context of this discourse and its time of reflection. Her case is one that brings up other societal issues- grooming, nationalism and extremist to be exact. It must be pointed out to start that this analysis does not seek to argue that she should be pardoned of all crimes. Rather, she should be allowed to be returned and re-naturalised as a British citizen. 

For many, Begum has become the face of global terror and the ISIS terrorist organisation that she left the UK to join in 2015. This position becomes less tenable when its brought to attention that she was groomed online to become one of 6,600 foreign minors recorded to be in ISIS (a number large enough to suggest that her situation is not unique). Perhaps it is better to view Begum as a victim of a series of systemic issues rather than what many seem to view her: an adult making a conscious decision to join a brutal and vicious regime.

The unfortunate reality is, that on paper the idea of willingly joining one of the most brutal forces of evil in the world is something objectively unforgivable. We too often forget however, that Begum was 15 at the time, an age in which someone can be vulnerable, influenced and introduced to dangerous ideas- a problem not totally uncommon. The very Home Office that took the action to remove Begum of her citizenship – rendering her stateless –  explicitly describes young people in the face of radicalisation as vulnerable: emphasising need of protection and safeguarding. Why have the organs of the British government failed to do this? 

Instead, we see a 22 year old appearing on GMB who has experienced the trauma of losing 3 children, the imprisonment of an organisation that manipulated her into its ranks and now stands with no country to return to- let alone a home. In this light does she really seem like a national threat or a dangerous terrorist? On the contrary. She is the victim of a series of systemic failings: the first, being the alienation she and many in her community face from wider society (it is worth noting that the NSPCC ranks isolation as one of the primary sources of radicalisation). 

The second failing is that of society’s slow response – or lack thereof –  to online grooming and preventing individuals from falling into dangerous ideas. It seems all too often in the news now that young people and adults alike are committing heinous acts at the behest or inspiration of online ideologies. You only have to look as far back as August this year to see the terrible shooting in Plymouth that took place due to the proliferation of far right and “Incel” ideas online. It is without a doubt that this sick attack was spurred on by radical forces on the internet and shows clearly the failings of governments around the world to regulate and react to online radicalisation. 

The third and most poignant failure has been in the reaction of the government to the situation that has presented itself. When all of the preventative infrastructure failed, the government took action that was based on outrage rather than following international law. The aforementioned discourse on international terror and islamic fundamentalism is evident here: the government allowed themselves to get caught up in a public furore and made an irrational decision.

 It is hoped that with these three particular failures in mind, we can be more swayed to use Begum’s situation to inspire public debate on how we take preventative measures to tackle extremism and online grooming. Regarding her return to the UK, it is evident from these discussed issues that she has been the victim of a series of systemic failings and while there is a burden of personal responsibility on her, the removal of citizenship was an irrational decision that should be reversed.


Jack Weinstein – Debating Society 

Shamima Begum should not be allowed to return to the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (UKSC) unanimously voted against Begum’s return for good reason. Begum left the United Kingdom (UK) to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) along with some of her friends. Her purpose in leaving was to integrate herself into the Daesh and subject herself to the barbaric practices of ISIL. If Begum’s actions were to only have impacted herself, that’s one thing, but she ruined the lives of countless other individuals and continues to support these practices. The acceptance and grant of Begum’s citizenship would only bring about risk to our modern society due to the threat that Begam previously and continues to pose.

Begum had the reputation of a strict enforcer in the ISIL Police where she would stitch explosive vests on suicide bombers in an effort to ensure they could not be removed without detonating. Furthermore, as a member of the Morality Police, she would recruit young women and subject them to Jihad extremists where they would be put in the same situation as Begum. For those who are unfamiliar, Begum was married at 15 and had three children all before the age of 19. Most importantly, her children did not have access to the medical assistance they needed and as a result, they all died. Begum experienced the horrific loss of her children and continued to support this lifestyle and coerced other young women into this lifestyle. Only after the loss of two of her three children did she decided she wanted to leave but stated that she did not regret her decision in joining ISIL. 

In an interview in 2019, Begum stated that she believed she only shared some values with the UK and still supported the ISIL lifestyle. How can we support and integrate a proud member of a terrorist group that subjects individuals to such barbaric practices? How can we support an individual who wants to come back not for the purpose of supporting our great nation, but for her own selfish wants and needs? ISIL’s mannerisms led to Begum, a UK born and educated individual feeling unfazed at the beheading of “enemies of Islam”. As a civilised society that thrives on equality and is composed of countless cultures and identities, we cannot subject ourselves to individuals who suffer from extreme forms of mental corruption and bigotry. 

Begum seeks to receive a form of special treatment regarding the law where we should all forget and move past her crimes. The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years of age. Not only was Begum old enough to satisfy criminal liability, but she was nearly old enough to drive, give medical consent, give sexual consent, and drink alcohol with a meal in a pub. Begum was merely months away from becoming a functioning adult in our society which implies that pleading ignorance to the law and claiming external influence is nonsense. Being inspired by watching beheading videos is not what one would call manipulation but rather pure cognitive illness. Begum’s largest issue pertains to becoming a stateless individual which is contrary to the British Nationality Act 1981. Section 40(2) of the Act states that citizenship status may be revoked if the Secretary of State is satisfied that said deprivation would be advantageous for the public good. An individual that supports the murder of journalists, corruption and mistreatment of women, and destruction of the Western world can by no means benefit our society. 

We must ask ourselves; do we have a duty to rehabilitate Begum seeing as she was a UK born citizen, corrupted by Jihad extremists? If we do have such a duty, she should only be allowed to return to the UK on the condition that she receives adequate medical treatment and repents for her crimes in prison. However, if all this were to occur, would you, a tax-paying individual, feel anything other than resent knowing your hard-earned cash is supporting the life of a terrorist? Most certainly not. Since Shamima Begum does not provide any benefit and cannot be trusted fully to integrate into our society, it is in the best interest of the public for her to never be allowed to return. 

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