There has been a lot of controversy over this young woman, or rather the fact that having left (with much publicity) to join ISIS in Syria four years ago, she now wishes to return to Britain. It is almost impossible to truly discern her motives when at 15 she left school and family to join, and presumably fight for, the Islamic Caliphate, which at that time occupied a large swathe of territory in both Syria and Iraq. She now says she was indoctrinated at the time – but does that make her any the less responsible? Does her age, just 15, make any difference? The law says that a 15 year old girl is too young to consent to have sex, but in the commission of many crimes the age appears to be much lower. In any case what specific crime was she supposedly guilty of? Can we be sure that she actually partook of any acts of violence? Is being a sympathiser in itself a crime? Too many questions and almost an answerable problem.
Add to all of this the barely disguised fact that ISIS was encouraged and probably funded by the CIA and the Saudis in order to help overthrow an elected leader of a foreign country and we are in very murky waters indeed. Also, and maybe central to the whole argument is the fact that Begum is a Muslim. There has been a war of words, fuelling a hatred of Muslims, waged by at least three of our ‘popular’ newspapers – and a tacit acceptance by television news to concur in this or at least to accept it.
And now the Home Secretary has declared that she is to be stripped of her British Citizenship and that she should apply to Bangladesh where her mother was born.
What do I think? Actually, whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, she is far better off not returning to Britain. There is already a campaign of hatred against her and it would be highly unlikely that her identity could be kept secret. She is safer away from the UK, even in Syria itself maybe. I do find it strange though the way the press seems to hone in on a case like this when there are far more serious problems with our society than a rather naïve girl making a tragic mistake at a young age. Such is the nature of Britain today, and Brexit has only added to the problem. I can still recall the man from Staffordshire who came into our Café a week after Brexit and declared that he had voted Leave to get rid of the “Fooking Muslims”.
But just for one moment Imagine the scenario, if a young British Jewish girl had left to join the Israeli army and had ended up shooting innocent civilians at the Gaza border, and then thought better of it and decided to return to England. I wonder if she would be greeted by the same hostility, or would those objecting to her be declared as anti-Semites. Strange world isn’t it?