Shamima Begum left the UK to join ISIS when she was a teenager. She was not alone in her journey. Two other school-girls left together with her for Syria via Turkey. We all know what peer pressure can be at age fifteen. As much as her choice is condemnable, in fact is gravely criminal, she still is a human susceptible to blunders. And surely she and her friends have done a big one. Do you think decisions made at age fifteen are thought-through? Four years into the mistake and she already realizes what conspicuous clanger she was hanging to in the past four years of her life.
When she made this choice, she in her mind thought what she is signing up for is absolutely the right thing to do. Who would not want to do what they think is right? When you are a teenager and allowed to take your dad’s car, you drive fast. When you are a teenager and exposed to the dangers of radical Islamization, you do what it makes you do. I am approaching 30s and I daily make choices which I know are wrong, but I still do them; smoke, drink, eat junk. The line of reasoning leads me to think whether I am worse than her; for I know what I am choosing is wrong but still decide to do so.
The extent of wrong is, again, a subjective matter.
When she was asked about ISIS doing beheadings, in a recent interview Shamina Begum said and I quote:
Yes I knew about those things and I was okay with that…first because I had started becoming very religious before I left..and from what I had heard Islamically it’s all allowed, so I was okay with it.
Do I need to tell where the problem lies?
The villain in the picture is not herself alone but equally is the ideology that made her think that it was the right thing to do. Her cult’s interpretation (or as it appeases many: misinterpretation) which made it appear all judicious and noble. She left as a child, and it is the duty of the society to take care of its children. Like it or not, her leaving UK to join ISIS is a personal as well as a societal failure.
She may appear to be only slightly-disappointed and not-enough unapologetic towards the UK government depriving her of her citizenship. However, she is remorseful on what she has done by supporting and joining ISIS. She acknowledged her mistake. Albeit her tone comes out a bit arrogant for her situation. But again, who am I to decide, considering her suffering of the loss of 2 kids in the span of 3 years, mistake of joining the Islamic state and now being left stateless by her own country. Do you think her decision is solely hers; uninfluenced by her family, her society, her local London mosque.
Her family, her society and even the UK govt., in failing to stop Islamisation at home, are equal culprits.
Now, there is a new actor in the story, Jarah. A child. Innocent. He will have to wait for a decade or two to understand how his fate was decided. The UK has the choice to either make or break the child’s future.
Jarah’s mother should be put to trial. She must be questioned, interrogated and without the shadow of a doubt, be prosecuted. She must face the charges as per the law and still be definite of having a state for Jarah. Do you think there are no Islamic radicals – potentially more dangerous than Begum – in the UK? Or people do not secretly or openly support ISIS in the UK. The thing is that the government appears to be helpless in throwing them out, but it can conveniently bar someone coming in. And why should not they? She can be a threat to the national security of the country. Who knows what her motives to return are? Is Jarah her excuse to launch her devilish plans?
On the other hand, in the UK alone, there are dozens of former jihadists leading reasonable lives after spending years in similar pursuits. Midway in their jihadist journeys, it dawned on them what foolery they were up to. They then reverted back. Since then they are living peaceful lives just like their other fellow law-abiding citizens. Please find time to watch a documentary by Deeyah Khan on this very subject: Jihad – A story of the other (available on Netflix).
What I am trying to say is the human mind is malleable, especially in Shamima’s age. As easily as it can be brain-washed, it can be ‘rewashed’, this time for the better. She deserves a chance of a trial and and her child deserves a better future.
The country that still boosts it can handle Brexit but not one of its own radicalized teenager makes the country look weaker, not stronger.
UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “My message is clear: if you have supported terrorist organizations abroad, I will not hesitate to prevent your return…”. Dare ask Mr. Javid for the legitimacy of stay of hundreds of those who are or were at some point in power and have been supporting the conflicts abroad for years through their devious policies and arms sale race. Moreover, it also raises a question over the meaning of citizenship. It was her only citizenship, so after depriving her of it, which country’s citizen she is now. Bangladesh, where her family is from has already refused to take her. Begum has never been to Bangladesh. And if countries can just write-off citizenships of their legal (but criminal) citizens and dump them like they never theirs were, then you and I should be worried. Dismissing citizenships is not a matter of a whim. Imagine you might not do anything as criminal as Begum did but what you believe, think of support might one day cost you your only citizenship over a commander’s impulse. Does it sound justified?
The other two girls still choose to stay in Syria. A confluence of factors shape the choice of a human behavior. It’s not as easy to pinpoint on one of these determinants. We may never understand all of these determinants in the first place. Therefore, the question of choice is likely to remain unanswered.
We are here for a very short duration on a single-ride anyways; unlike those jihadists who think they are going somewhere better. Let’s have more compassion in our lives towards other living beings. I am not suggesting letting go Shamima uncharged. She must face the trial, spend prison sentence while also being aided in her journey towards betterment. Self-realization is the best catalyst for change. Fixing a human mind is the highest form of fixture a society can achieve. Let’s strive for that, along with fixing the conducive environments that exploit young malleable minds at the hands of radicals.
When states make people stateless, it comes as no surprise when the same people choose to join the state!