The Shamima Begum Case Is A Feminist Issue
Miranda Husain highlights the urgent need to rehabilitate the ISIS bride while pointing out the double standard when it comes to re-integrating men fundamentalists
The Shamima Begum case is a feminist issue. Yet instead of recognising this — the British government has chosen to join hands with ISIS to declare violent misogyny on the girl child.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid stands by his decision to revoke her citizenship. On the grounds that to sanction return is to risk further radicalisation at home. Possibly leading to terrorist attacks on British soil. Of course, this misses the point that the United Kingdom has long served as a hotbed of murderous Islamist extremism.
Due to its militarised foreign policy in vast swathes of the Muslim world. And stripping a young woman of nationality conveniently fails to address this. At best, serving as a tactical move to deflect from the never-ending Brexit debacle as the Conservatives gear up for another leadership race. At worst, representing an open abdication of all responsibility. Whereas Westminster undoubtedly has a duty of care in this instance.
The bottom line is that Shamima was a minor — just 15-years-old — when she swapped London’s East End for the ‘glamour’ of becoming an ISIS bride in Syria. Meaning that her subsequent and immediate marriage to a foreign fighter constitutes statutory rape. Within the GWOT context this is a war crime by another name.
And given how Tory leaders such as Boris Johnson have demonstrated great enthusiasm in helping Iraqis prosecute the terror outfit on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — leaving British child brides to languish in refugee camps merely blurs the line between state and non-state atrocities.
At the beginning of this month, the now 19-year-old admitted to being brainwashed and pleaded for a second chance. To date, Jeremy Corbyn remains the only politician who advocates allowing her back into the UK.
He is right to do so.
If the government is serious about tackling the ISIS threat head-on then young women like Shamima could well prove an invaluable tool in the de-radicalisation process. For the bitter truth is that most western nations are ill-equipped to deal with the phenomenon of female recruitment; especially that of under-age girls. To ignore this would be a misstep. After all, the success of Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire hinges on its ability to speak to potential recruits in the West in their own language.
ISIS, by contrast, has taken the enrolment drive to the next level; particularly in terms of gender specifics. Thus it sells to young girls the promise of the ultimate ‘gap year’: sun, sex and wedded bliss to any one of the countless muscle-bound young men under the false premise of religious legitimacy. Naturally, social media provides a prized vehicle for online grooming.
That being said, London has been down this path many a time before. With successive regimes not hesitating in mainstreaming erstwhile fundamentalists. Indeed, far from revoking the respective citizenships of Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz — who had in their misguided youth joined the ranks of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) — both were welcomed in from the cold.
Before proceeding to establish the Quilliam Foundation; a counter-extremism think tank receiving Home Office funding. The pair have penned memoirs outlining the journey towards radicalisation and back again; going on to become prominent figures in framing the global discourse on militant fundamentalism. In fact, there have long been rumours that all this came to pass with the active support of Britain’s security agencies; with claims that Nawaz gave editorial feedback on Mr Husain’s book whilst holed up in an Egyptian jail.
Similarly, allegations persist that Whitehall lackeys edited The Islamist until the final draft reflected state objectives. Their rehabilitation reached completion when Nawaz contested the 2015 general elections as a Liberal Democrat candidate; footage of him visiting a strip club during Ramzan notwithstanding.
All of which raises questions regarding the extent to which regimes of the day have allowed certain groups to operate under their watchful eye; as a means of infiltrating such set-ups. Some of these have been linked to devastating terror attacks on the UK homeland.
Moving forward, the most just way to deal with British adult nationals who hit the overseas jihadist trail is to bring them back to stand trial for treason in a process that must be entirely transparent. When it comes to minors like Shamima, the priority ought to be re-integration. But more than that — what’s left of the Theresa May government needs to urgently uphold the country’s international commitments on the rights of the child. None of which involves ‘deportation’ to Bangladesh.
Miranda Husain is a senior journalist and has worked as Deputy Managing Editor at Daily Times, Features Editor at The Friday Times (TFT) and Deputy Editor at Newsweek Pakistan. She writes on local and international politics; race and identity; and cats! She can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @humeiwei