Should jihadi brides be permitted to return to Britain?

Syria map. CC0 Public Domain.

In a guest post for this site, Liberal Democrat councillor Rabina Khan takes a look at the issue:

The majority of the British public would agree with me in that they utterly condemn anyone – regardless of age or motivation – who betrays their country by fleeing to ISIS and supporting the actions of terrorists. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would not hesitate to prevent the return of Britons who joined IS, yet Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said that we cannot make people stateless.

Nevertheless, there are some, like Jacob Rees-Mogg who feel that we should have sympathy for pregnant Shamima Begum, who was radicalised at such a young age and who has already had two babies who have died. Her family have begged for her to be allowed to return to East London. Whether Shamima gives birth to her child in Syria or in Britain, the danger is that another innocent child will also be indoctrinated. We do not need any more homegrown extremists. However, she did not show the same regard for her first two babies and she admitted that when she saw her first severed head, it didn’t faze her at all.

Others may question whether she should still be judged on a choice she made when she was only 15, yet she is 19 now and shows no remorse for that decision. She has made it clear that she has not renounced her support for ISIS and its aims, so why would we allow someone who is completely influenced by ISIS propaganda to return to our country just to take advantage of our health, education and benefits’ system? Some would say that she made her bed, so she should lie in it.

Haras Rafiq, Chief Executive of the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam, suggested that the “intellectual and right thing to do” would be for her to go before the courts. Former MI6 Director, Richard Barrett, accused the government of a “complete lack of concern for her plight” and felt that Britain should be strong enough to take her back.

The issue of her possible return is a very complex one at many levels.  We should not lower ourselves to the level of extremist psychopaths like ISIS and judge her on the basis of dogma. We are British and that is not what we do. What we do need to determine is why and how she and her friends were radicalised. How many other young British schoolchildren are being radicalised as we speak? It is understood that at least one of the other girls she travelled with has died. Are her beliefs so entrenched that she does not fear death?

Perhaps, if she is allowed to return, she could play a valuable role in identifying how and why young people “voluntarily” choose to reject our common values to join and embrace jihad with seemingly no regard for her own or others’ lives.

The NSPCC are doing their best to protect children from radicalisation. They offer advice to anyone who is worried about a child and provide advice on spotting the signs. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (2015) places a Prevent duty on early years settings “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

The shock has certainly not diminished in our Tower Hamlets community and our children and communities are not safe until we know the answers.

UPDATE: Rabina Khan has returned to this issue in “If Shamima Begum is to be prosecuted at home, the public must be told exactly how she was radicalised“.


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