01:36, July 19 65 0 theguardian.com

2020-07-19 01:36:05
Britain can no longer shirk its responsibility for Shamima Begum

Should “jihadi bride” Shamima Begum be allowed to return to the UK to fight her case not to be stripped of British citizenship? She should. Not because she is a victim of child grooming. Nor because the conditions under which she lives in a Kurdish camp for Isis women are harsh. But because she is a British citizen.

The court of appeal ruled last week that Begum should be able to return to Britain to fight her case against being stripped of citizenship. It dismissed the government’s argument, which, in effect, was that Begum had left Britain of her own volition and was therefore not entitled to a fair trial.

Begum, 20, was born in Britain and brought up in Britain. However monstrous her actions in Syria, she remains someone to whom Britain has legal and moral obligations. Begum should be answerable for her jihadist activities – in a British court.

Refusing entry would not simply keep her out of Britain. It would also force another state or organisation to be responsible for her, whether the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which run the camp in which she lives, or Bangladesh, the country from which her parents came, but in which she has never set foot. Why should Britain expect either to have to deal with a British citizen? The issue is not that we should ignore the fact of Begum joining Isis. It is, rather, that it’s Britain’s responsibility to deal with it.

We are often told that what separates a nation such as Britain from the barbarism of Isis is that Britain abides by the rule of law. Faced with a case such as this, though, the government seems happy to jettison that distinction. It’s in these hard cases that the distinction matters most.

Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist

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