15:29, February 19 200 0 theguardian.com

2019-02-19 15:29:04
Taking Shamima Begum's citizenship risks making her a martyr

The decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship will turn a young British woman into a martyr.

In the same way Guantánamo Bay became a recruiting sergeant for extremism, cases like that of Begum will serve only to radicalise more young British Muslims.

Whatever Begum’s alleged crimes, there is every reason to try her in the UK where justice can be seen to be done. Instead, the government is determined to make a public example out of her.

The whole world will now be able to judge the quality of British mercy – and find it strained. But ministers appear oblivious to the wider influence this iron-fist approach will have on the problem of the radicalisation of young Muslims.

This week the home secretary, Sajid Javid, even suggested bringing back the law of treason, first introduced in the 14th century to punish anyone who ‘imagined the death’ of the monarch or had sexual relations with the ‘companion of the king’.

What Javid doesn’t seem to have noticed is that his own department has already introduced a counter-terrorism bill which received royal assent last week. It made it a terrorist offence to travel to places like Syria and beefed up sentencing in terrorism cases.

But the last thing we need is more laws to deal with a few dozen British Muslims returning from Syria.

The criminal law canon has become so crammed with terrorism law that it would be better to strip back the panoply of terrorism offences and try extremists under the common criminal law.

Knee-jerk legislation and knee-jerk counterterrorism policy are never good ideas, and may only serve to make martyrs out of common criminals.

Robert Verkaik is an author and journalist specialising in extremism and education. He is the author of Jihadi John: The Making of a Terrorist

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