If you’ve been following the news or are on social media, you probably know about Shamima Begum, the 20-year-old British girl who travelled to Syria in 2015 and recently had her citizenship revoked after asking to return to the country with her newborn child. Her face has been on every front page with people seemingly hugely divided on the potential rights and wrongs of allowing her to come back. With the recent passing of her baby that debate has been reignited and, to my mind, Britain should set a humane example by letting her come home.
In July 2017 it was revealed by multiple papers that the UK had revoked the citizenship of 150 ‘jihadists and criminals’, yet Shamima Begum belongs to neither category. A jihadist is someone who is involved in a ‘violent struggle’; as far as we know, she has never killed anyone or been part of propaganda spreading messages. The media continues to portray her as an extremist and a danger to society yet there is no concrete evidence to support this, except a collective displeasure towards her choice to go to Syria, which surely only highlights further the problem of Islamophobia that this country is trying to resolve.
What is also not mentioned is how susceptible today’s teenagers are to external influences; the effects of social media and peer pressure can add to the feelings of confusion that often consume many teenagers. That, in addition to their search for a purpose and a place they belong, makes them more likely to rebel or even be lured away. What happened with Shamima happens on a smaller scale with millions of teenagers on a daily basis. Should every teenager who acts out or makes a wrong move be turned away?
Even now, when speaking in interviews, Shamima did not appear the composed and threatening woman that she is portrayed to be, but a frightened young girl fearing for her and her child’s life. Instead of this situation being an opportunity to show that there is compassion and acceptance in this country, it has turned into a fuel for the existing hatred and Islamophobia that has created such problems to begin with.
So, unlike Sajid Javid’s belief that revoking her citizenship is somehow for the good of the British people, the truth is, when the country is turning its back on people who ask for a second chance, it is essentially proving the jihadists’ point that there is no home in the UK for these people. This is a dangerous and counterproductive message to send to these frightened young people, and as a society we need to make sure we prove them wrong.
Image: Richter Frank-Jurgen