Save your tears for Shamima’s victims

Shamima Begum tore up her British citizenship the moment she joined the ISIS death cult.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK World

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Nothing better illustrates the vast, cavernous moral vacuum at the heart of identity politics than the transformation of Shamima Begum into a poor little victim of Racist Britain. Here we have a young woman who willingly, happily trekked thousands of miles to join an Islamist death cult that was enslaving Yazidi women, executing Christians, defenstrating homosexuals and waging an unforgiving war on anyone who deviated from its deranged belief system. And yet according to the woke set, she’s the victim. Not only of the evil men who allegedly groomed her into joining ISIS – yeah, right – but also of the horrible, Islamophobic stain on this planet that is modern-day Britain. She betrayed her country in the most sordid way imaginable and the woke condemn the country rather than her. As I say, moral vacuum.

The latest hook for the chattering classes’ shedding of tears for Shamima is the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill. Especially Clause 9 of it, which would allow the government to revoke a person’s citizenship without informing them first. The Home Office has had the power since 2006 to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship if doing so would be ‘conducive to the public good’. Since 2014 it has been able to do the same to foreign-born Brits if it believes they are eligible for citizenship in another country. Now it can rob you of your citizenship without even dropping you a line, though this will only happen in ‘exceptional circumstances’, such as when ‘someone is in a war zone’ (hello, Shamima). According to the leftish commentariat, this is all a grave, tyrannical assault on the whole idea of citizenship and is racist to boot. The New Statesman reckons that half of Britain’s Asian community and 39 per cent of black Britons fall into that category of people that could be turned into non-citizens with a scribble of Priti Patel’s pen. ‘It’s a profoundly racist law’, says Frances Webber of the Institute for Race Relations.

Apparently, we should all have paid more attention, and maybe even protested, when poor Shamima had her citizenship revoked in February 2019, because it was cases like hers that paved the way for the allegedly hateful authoritarianism of the Nationality and Borders Bill. Zoe Williams of the Guardian says the Home Office’s assault on Shamima’s citizenship has now ‘solidified into something darker and more concrete’. ‘Like Shamima Begum, I could soon be stripped of British citizenship without notice’, says a Sri Lanka-born writer who is now a citizen of the UK. My first thought upon reading that was: ‘Really? Are you planning on aligning with Britain’s enemies and assisting in a war of attrition against our people and our values?’ If you aren’t, you’ll be fine, honestly.

There is so much misinformation, or at least half-truths, floating around about the revocation of Begum’s citizenship. First, the idea that it was a racist act by a racist government is wholly without evidence. Her citizenship was revoked by Sajid Javid, who was home secretary at the time, and he’s hardly a racist. What’s more, a white Brit – Jack Letts – also had his citizenship revoked. This middle-class Oxfordshire lad who came to be known as ‘Jihadi Jack’ when he ran off to join ISIS was deprived of his citizenship in August 2019. He qualifies for citizenship of Canada through his father. The Letts case utterly shattered the depiction of Shamima as a victim of state racism. The mumbo-jumbo of the identitarian set – the revocation of Shamima’s citizenship ‘demonstrated how racialised bodies are always in a limbo state in Britain’, said one woke muppet – was rendered ridiculous when the very white, very proper Mr Letts suffered the exact same fate as Shamima.

Also, the idea that what happened to Shamima could happen to anyone in Britain who has dual citizenship – maybe even me, given my parents are foreigners and I am a citizen of Ireland as well as Britain – is bunkum of the highest order. That’s like saying, ‘Oh my God, any one of us could be put in a jail cell for the rest of our lives!’. Yes, if you go on a bloody killing spree, that might well happen to you. If you don’t, you’ll be okay. Likewise, if you travel to a foreign country to assist a murderous Islamist army that had massacred British citizens – in Manchester, in London and in Syria, too – you might lose your British citizenship, yes. If you don’t, you won’t. Citizenship tends only to be revoked in extreme circumstances. It will happen, says the Home Office, to ‘the most dangerous people’ only. Like terrorists and their enablers.

The idea that any British Asian or black Briton could wake up one day and suffer ‘the Shamima fate’ is so ludicrous it doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. I don’t know if this is news to the Smart Set, but the vast majority of Britain’s Asian-heritage and black citizens are decent, law-abiding people who are not planning to do anything so criminal and horrific that it might require their banishment from the country. One writer captures how rash the panic about the Nationality and Borders Bill has become. She says she read about its new power to deprive a person of his or her citizenship without informing them first and thought to herself: ‘[Does] that include me…? Does that include my brothers and sisters?’ I’m guessing neither she nor her family members are planning to join a foreign army that sawed off a British man’s head in the desert, so no, it doesn’t include them.

There really is a moral panic about citizenship off the back of this bill. Myths and fears about the racist British state turfing out black people and Asian people are spreading like wildfire in correct-thinking circles. It is all highly irresponsible. The truth is that virtually every country has powers that allow it to revoke the citizenship of naturalised or dual citizens in exceptional circumstances. In France, naturalised dual citizens can have their citizenship removed if they act against the national interest. In Germany dual nationals can have their citizenship rescinded if they fight for a terrorist militia overseas. Same in Australia. Turkey removes the citizenship of those who assist an enemy combatant state. And on it goes. Britain’s law is not as unusual as people are claiming. Indeed, here in the UK the removal of citizenship has been a legal possibility for a century. This power has merely been strengthened in recent years.

Of course we should be vigilant. We should keep a watchful eye to ensure that people are not having their citizenship revoked for minor reasons. But we should do that with all laws – ensure they are being applied fairly and consistently. Critics of the Nationality and Borders Bill accuse the government of diminishing citizenship. But it is actually the critics themselves who seem not to understand how important and meaningful citizenship is. Citizenship entails respect for the wellbeing of the nation. Being a good citizen is something we should all work at, all the time. Being a British citizen is a very special thing. The removal of citizenship is perhaps the highest punishment an individual can suffer, and it makes sense to me that such a punishment should be reserved for those who assist foreign death cults or engage in other forms of extremely dangerous or terroristic activity. One could argue that depriving traitors of their citizenship actually strengthens rather than weakens the ideal of citizenship, since it demonstrates a desire to protect British citizens, to protect Britain, from foreign elements that seek to slaughter our people and destabilise our nation.

What’s more, wasn’t it Ms Begum herself who revoked her British citizenship when she joined ISIS? What is joining that murderous cult if not an expression of utter, unfixable contempt for the nation and the people that brought you up, educated you and gave you the rights of citizenship? The cultural elites should save their tears for the victims of the cult that Shamima joined. Last month, in a German court, a man was found guilty of taking part in the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidi people. He had enslaved a five-year-old Yazidi girl and as a punishment he chained her up outside, under the burning sun, where she died of thirst. Cry for her. Only the woke won’t, because in that moral vacuum they inhabit there has been far more sorrow and pity expressed for Shamima than for the Yazidi, Kurdish and Christian communities that suffered horrendous lives and deaths under the brutal dictatorship that Shamima joined. Truly, identity politics rots the soul.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK World


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