The Case of Shamima Begum – What we do post ISIS will define our fight against Terror
Shamima Begum, the 19-year old ISIS bride, wants to come home.
On February 19, news broke in the UK that Shamima Begum, the 19-year old ISIS bride, who, back in 2015 chose to flee the UK, to join ISIS in Syria, had been stripped of her British nationality and would therefore be refused entry back to the country.
The move which comes on the back of a broad controversy on the fate ISIS militants should face in the wake of their military defeat in both Syria and Iraq, prompted a rather interesting conversation as to what we ought to do as a concerned sovereign nation, as a society bound by the rule of law, and as individuals moved by compassion and a sense of empathy towards those we may perceive as victims … in other words few are those daring to affirm with certainty what path we ought to now take.
And yet, what we will decide collectively will most certainly determine how we will move past this age of Terror, this dark cloud that has defined for over a decade our socio-political lives and tainted the public debate with the very biases we thought to have relegated to the past – mainly the belief that the quality of a man is determined by geography, faith, and/or the levels of melanin in his body. However harsh this statement may be, we have all been guilty of broad generalization by virtue of our fears – to some degree or another, even when wielded in self-defense.
We can no longer allow for our fears and our lack of rationality to dictate our path.
Terror thought to destroy our way of life; terror ambitioned to hold us hostage to its bloody crusade and its pernicious dogma. Terror lost!
Terror was defeated in the field, the ideology that gave it life needs now to be annihilated and its supporters brought to justice – the real question will be under whose jurisdiction and under whose authority?
Shamima is One Among Many
Shamima is one among many … and while her case may put in sharp focus ISIS recruiting methods and the fate women met by the hands of ISIS fighters, her case is one of legal and national accountability. Britain, some may argue, chose the easy way out by stripping her of her citizenship and thus placing Ms. Begum outside the bound of the Crown.
I doubt cowardice was what motivated Sajid Javid, the UK home secretary – rather a strong sense of national responsibility and political foresight. Shamima Begum is not just a British national caught in a difficult legal conundrum, she is for all intent and purposes a terror militant … or at the very least a terror sympathizer. As such, she positioned herself an enemy of the state and a traitor to the nation.
Her case, like so many others, requires careful consideration; notwithstanding the fact that our desire to exact justice should first and foremost include those victims ISIS left in its wake, and that includes Ms. Begum’s infant child. To look at the guilty parties with no thoughts whatsoever for their victims would be one tragedy too many.
It would be to condone the horrors ISIS committed to abandoning its victims while allocating our resources to address cases such as that of Mss Begum. The argument could be made that Shamima’s crimes are such that her being a ‘child’ upon her arrival in Syria matters very little indeed. And yes it is true, she was legally a child when she left the UK but she is no longer a child and she has yet to repent for her choices and her actions while under ISIS ominous flag.
In her interview with Sky News she openly stood by her choice to join the Terror group by arguing it made her ‘stronger’ as a person. It is not strength which allows a person to happily move among Terror’s ideologues; it is not strength which moved Ms. Begum to beseech Britain’s help now that the Caliphate has fallen … what she is, is less an issue than what she did and what she will and could do.
The True Test of the War on Terror
Shamima Begum’s case caught our imagination in that she poses before us an existential question: how are we to look upon those militants who wished the death of our civilization, our way of life, our religious freedom, our democracies, and our sovereignty?
What do we do with the remnants of the Caliphate? Do we deny them entry to preserve the integrity of our borders putting the legal onus on Syria and Iraq? Do we allow militants back and pray that none will fall through the cracks of our legal system? Should we, out of self-preservation, suspend our laws … will that not in itself engage us on a road far more dangerous than that we ventured on while combating ISIS?
Those questions are not for the faint-hearted and it is likely this debate will cause much ink to flow and many opinions to be voiced.
I will venture a solution and advance that since Terror is a global issue that exists beyond any one country sovereignty we ought to approach all legal entanglements from a global perspective and thus assign all legal resolution to an international body.
But whatever our governments will do, we absolutely and unequivocally ought to assert ISIS’ victims’ rights by demanding that their pain be recognized and their hardship alleviated.
Not all battles are won to the barrel of a gun – reconstruction will be the true test of our victory over Terror.