Photo Credit | BBC

By Neelam Rose (Advocacy Officer for MWNUK)

Earlier this week the plight of Shamima Begum was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Carey of Clifton during oral questions.  He asked the Government what plans they have, on the grounds of compassion and morality, to reconsider their decision to refuse citizenship to Shamima Begum. A number of peers supported showing compassion, urging the government to consider allowing her back and holding her to account in the UK.  I am glad that parliamentarians have not forgotten her case and continue to challenge the government's stance.

Last month I too was alarmed when I heard that Shamima Begum had lost her appeal against the decision to remove her British citizenship. Ms Begum is a British citizen who was groomed when she was a child at the age of 15 by ISIS propaganda. Ms Begum is a British born Muslim woman and should be allowed to return to her home country and face any criminal trial and questioning on British soil. Her citizenship should have never been revoked. I truly believe it is imperative for our thriving democracy to ensure we do not diminish our responsibilities to British citizens without giving them a fair trial and it should be considered that a British citizen was groomed in the UK. Those complexities therefore have to be understood and placed into context when decisions are made about revoking citizenship. Sadly, heavily racialised tropes and Islamophobic sentiments influenced public discourse on her specific case.

"The ability to strip an individual of their citizenship (particularly in circumstances where their dual nationality is in doubt) has now created communities of second-class citizens."

I think in the case of Ms Begum there is much to be learned and to explore in regards what she knows and what she has witnessed, this information is key to understanding how young girls fall victim to grooming and how to combat this extremism that is hijacking ordinary Muslim communities and young people across the globe.

It is important to hear what the members of Muslim Women's Network also had to say on Shamima Begum's case.  When I posed the question, I received a number of responses including from the Co-Chair of Muslim Women's Network UK, the Muslim Women's Network Advisory Group members and other other membership. They were unanimous in their criticism of the decision not to allow Shamima back - their views are listed below.

Nazmin Akthar (Co-Chair of Muslim Women's Network UK)
“Whether she is a criminal or a victim is irrelevant to the question of whether she should be granted entry into the UK. Shamima Begum was born and brought up in the UK and given Bangladesh’s clear statement that she is not a Bangladeshi citizen, she does not have citizenship rights to any country other than the UK. It is astounding that a country feels it can unilaterally decide that an individual has right to citizenship in another country and beyond comprehension it then feels the other country actually has any obligation to agree to such a view. The ability to strip an individual of their citizenship (particularly in circumstances where their dual nationality is in doubt) has now created communities of second-class citizens. In addition to this, it sends a message of a lack of sense of responsibility to the wider world where a ‘solution’ to criminal behaviour is to make it someone else’s ‘problem’.”

Siyyara Hamid (MW Advisory Group Member)
"It is a disproportionate response for one person to bear the whole responsibility if the intention is a lesson for anyone else who (naively) takes this route, it is a gross over reaction of the justice making machinery and I wonder if the conclusion would be the same if she were a sexually exploited white child or a white male. Shamima Begum has repeatedly paid the price in her personal life, her body, her mothering, and justice has beaten her up further. There has been no consideration to the forgiveness element of humanism in my opinion what is required to reinstate her given right, her nationality and then face the law in fair play."

Farah Farzana (MW Advisory Group Member)
"If it was a white 15-year-old girl who done the same, she would be extradited and put on some programme to ensure she is no longer a hazard to the public. Making an example of the young woman is actually further creating divide."

Niparun Nessa (MW Advisory Group Member)
"It's a threat to all people of colour and those with family links outside the UK. If we do something wrong, we could lose our citizenship or threatened to be deported elsewhere regardless of whether that place means much to us or not. It's not just Shamima, it's Windrush and the reminder of how big white privilege is."

Ibtisam Belola (MW Advisory Group Member)
"So, what level of crime is deemed worthy of stripping citizenship? This is targeted at Muslims as a controlling mechanism, to remind us of our otherness and that our citizenship is not a right but conditional."

Christine Bell (Company Director)
"I am horrified that a young victim of grooming has been left stateless because of decisions she made whilst still a child. We know how easily influenced young people can be and how many young people make bad decisions. For most of our young people, these bad decisions do not cause long term damage. Shamima has been punished in a way that would not have happened to a white 15-year-old who was influenced to put themselves and others in danger. The fact that she did not seem repentant in the camps could mean many things and we may never truly know the truth but it is highly probable that her life would have been in danger from others in Isis had she spoken out against them so she had very limited freedom and choice.

We may not agree with the choices that Shamima took as a child and the path that she continued to explore but she is a British citizen by birth and she should be able to return here and be dealt with by the UK Justice system and not some arbitrary process which leaves her stateless."

Graham Patefield
"I disagree with the decision to withdraw her citizenship. She is British and deserves to be back here and supported rather than singled out and punished."

"I disagree with her not being allowed back in the country after watching the documentary last week they should give her a chance."

"I am stunned at the outcome of the appeal and I honestly believed that sanity, wisdom and judicial independence would prevail but it seems not. Shamima was 15 when she was groomed for the purpose of sexual exploitation. I can't help but compare her situation to the young girls groomed by the gangs up north. Those girls were (quite rightly) treated as victims of grooming and sexual exploitation but Shamima is not viewed as a victim but a threat. So, what's the difference between Shamima and those girls other than the colour of their skins and their ethnicity?

The decision by the courts is scary for me as a British citizen born in Pakistan. So, I can potentially lose my citizenship if I fall fowl of the criminal justice system but my white friend, born in the UK, who commits the very same crime will never have to worry about losing her citizenship. Never before have I felt more like a second-class citizen."

"At a deeper level, this rejection of those perceived as ‘other’ extends to British citizens who are not ‘white’; in my opinion it is truly shameful for a state to ‘disown’ its citizens. Would Shamima Begum have lost her citizenship had she been white? I fully support the views expressed in the Media Statement about Shamima Begum by MWNUK."

"I believe strongly that if Shamima Begum was a white person her outcome today would have been different. She would have been granted citizenship back, further Shamima should be invited to work on de-radicalisation initiatives, and remain in Islamic-centred therapy."

Rabina Khan
"I was the councillor from the borough she came from when Shamima and her friends left to go to Syria in 2015. It’s wasn’t just Shamima who was radicalised but 8 girls from the same school and year group."

Karen Leach
"I am not a Muslim woman (though I like to think I am a friend/ally!) but I agree with every word of MWN UK’s statement above; Shamima is the UK's responsibility; she was also a groomed teenager and yes, the decision and the public perception of the case seems to reflect Islamophobia."

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