Shamima Begum: Dr Shola discusses stripping of citizenship
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Today's edition of The Big Questions on BBC One asked whether Shamima Begum is Britain's moral responsibility. In the studio, host Nicky Campbell was joined by guests with a variety of backgrounds and expertise, as well as some on a live video link. Fierce debate ensued after Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu suggested Shamima Begum’s citizenship was stripped ” because she is brown, she's Asian”.
Nicky gave those at home a quick summary of what had happened to Shamima Begum: " In 2015, 15-year-old Shamima Begum and two of er schools friends left East London and travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
"10 days after arriving she was married to a Dutch convert to Islam, she went on to bear him three children, all of whom are now dead.
"Two years ago, after she was found in a refugee camp, she said she hoped to be able to return to Britain, although she did not regret her initial decision to join the IS.
"The then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped of her British citizenship on national security grounds. Now, Shamima Begum wants to return to Britain to challenge this decision.
BBC uproar as Dr Shola suggests Shamima stripped of UK citizenship ‘because she’s brown’ (Image: BBC )
" The Court of Appeal ruled that the only fair way forward would be to allow her back into the UK because she cannot effectively appeal the Home Secretary's decision from the camp in northern Syria.
"However, last Friday, that ruling was overturned. The Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling said the government is entitled to prevent her return," he concluded.
Nicky then detailed some of the other developments in Shamima Begum case, including some of the comments she made to the press about her involvement in IS.
"No regrets joining, she said she was 'untroubled' about seeing a decapitated head because he was an enemy of Island. She was asked about the Manchester bombing and she said it was 'justified as retaliation for bombing IS-held areas'. And she was was asked about the rape and enslavement of Yazidi women and she said 'the Shia do the same in Iraq'.
The Big Questions: Nicky had to jump in (Image: BBC)
"Do you want her back?" Nicky asked. Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director of Human Rights Watch said in response: "One thing I have certainly noticed in this particular situation… is that security, morality and the law are on the side of the women and the children in the camps. And should be on their side.
"And why do I say that? First of all, from a moral perspective and from a legal perspective, Shamima Begum was 15 years old when she was likely groomed and trafficked."
Nicky jumped in and said: "She was 19 when she said [those things previously mentioned] and I noticed you haven't responded to any of that stuff."
"I'm going to come to that," Yasmine replied. "It's important that we zoom out because when we hear stuff like that it's really important but it's also highly emotive."
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The Big Questions: BBC studio guests argued against Dr Shola (Image: BBC)
"I'm sorry, the Manchester bombing is highly emotive. It's justified!" Nicky hit back.
"Of course, absolutely, but what I'm trying to say is, is that we should also take account of the broader situation. She was 15 years old when she was likely groomed and trafficked. She was married underage when she was there and consistently people who have been involved in psychological trauma exhibit signs such as this where they are unable to express their emotions effectively."
"You've said a lot of very powerful and interesting stuff we can pick up on," Nicky continued.
Shamima Begum applying for citizenship elsewhere was brought up: "She can [apply for citizenship] in Bangladesh, which they said they would impose the death penalty on her," Nicky read.
"They've completely pulled that rug from underneath her feet [taken away the opportunity to apply for citizenship in Bangladesh], so that may not be a possibility available to her either," journalist and writer Aina Khan said.
The Big Questions: Emma gave her view on the topic being discussed (Image: BBC)
A little later, Dr Shola jumped in: "I think some people are missing the point. The question is whether or not we have a moral responsibility to Shamima Begum or not – absolutely yes.
"Using security as a reason [to strip her of British citizenship], it doesn't make sense, that's politics.
"Let me make it clear to you, this isn't about her being 15, I don't condone or support what she did – that's not the point here – we need to understand that Shamima Begum as a British citizen deserves to have British justice.
"From a security perspective, she's more of a danger to us out there. British people like to pack their bags travel, go work and live in other countries, you're creating a bigger security problem, the countries Shamima and others are put in have no ground to deliver any form of justice," Dr Shola continued.
"What has Shamima Begum done that is worse than the terrorists we have, the mass murderers and the paedophiles and we have them locked up and we do not strip them of their citizenship! It is because she is brown, she's Asian."
"No, that is ridiculous," Emma Webb, a Research Fellow jumped in but Nicky had to take control before things really escalated.
He said: "Wait, wait wait. That point there, let me just pick up there. It's because…Shola, that point, we have to pick that point up. It's because she is brown. That particular point. Let's deal with that. Then I'll come to the audience.”
Emma cut in to argue the decision to strip her citizenship had nothing to do with her race or gender but everything to do with national security and to argue otherwise was ridiculous as she referenced Jack Letts as an example.
She said: "That's ridiculous. Jack Letts was stripped of his citizenship and he's a Canadian and a man. The only reason why we're discussing Begum is because we think that because she was a woman that she is somehow is less moral culpable for her decision to go and join Islamic State. We don't talk about male fighters in this way.”
"No, she is more culpable," journalist and writer Aina Khan said. "She's absolutely more culpable than male fighters in this way."
"Shola's point there, she's less dangerous here and she can be monitored and we can try to understand the mindset and mentality," Nicky said. "There are two people I know really well, former Jihadis who are working on anti-radicalisation in this country."
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