The high-profile media status of Shamima Begum’s case is distracting the British public from a more pressing issue which concerns public safety. Liberals and leftists want to guilt you into thinking that Begum’s case is about our values as a nation which cherishes justice and the rule of law, never mind that terrorists don’t care about that sort of stuff. They want to pull at your heart strings and claim Begum’s wellbeing is somehow our collective obligation because she was “groomed”, cynically appropriating terminology we use to describe victims so as to minimise culpability and agency (the average 15 year old doesn’t travel halfway around the world to join a genocidal death cult!). But the real argument should not be about one individual example, it is the harrowing question of what happens with the hundreds of other combat hardened ISIS veterans that come from Britain but are presently marooned in the Middle East?
Allowing all such persons to return to British soil would set off a ticking time bomb that would explode on the streets of our country. And thanks to the Court of Appeal’s decision to let Begum back in, this has become all the more likely. Many people acknowledge the obvious callous brutality of ISIS, but then misguidedly assume that we can just prosecute everybody who joined it via standard legal channels. In reality, ascertaining the guilt of individuals in a war zone (let alone another jurisdiction) is a complicated enterprise. British authorities cannot really find evidence which could at least reliably meet the standard of proof in our civilian courts. Consider the quantity of captured ISIS members from here and the bureaucracy involved in conducting trials related to terrorism, and you come to the realisation that this would be an impossible enterprise to undertake. We know this to be the case given that approximately 400 ISIS members have returned to the U.K. since the group began to lose territory, yet very few have been arrested. It takes a team of 30 to have one suspect under full time surveillance, Britain’s state security services simply lack the resources and infrastructure to meaningfully contain all possible threats. By some estimates, the U.K. has the highest rate of returning ISIS members in the whole of Europe. Given their fanaticism and record of atrocities, this should cause us all grave concern for public safety and national security.
The Court of Appeal’s decision is also inherently illogical. It is founded on the pretense that Begum can come back to challenge her loss of citizenship, but what if the court decides the state was right to deprive her of her British passport? Such a ruling is of course unlikely because Begum’s legal team will exploit a wide apparatus of human rights laws to come to a favourable ruling delivered by ever politicised activist judges; the Court has in effect set Begum’s legal team up for success by granting them their initial objective (which was to bring Shamima Begum back to Britain). Such underhandedness may strengthen the rhetoric of virtue signallers, but it will also make easier the task of those with darkened hearts to return to Britain and do harm. It is simply impossible for the state to control the magnitude of risk associated with these people once they return, therefore keeping them out can be the only sensible solution. By allowing Shamima Begum to return to Britain to contest her loss of citizenship, the judiciary have created a precedent which will allow hundreds of other extremists to return and inevitably, one or more will do harm. This is not the issue for moral grandstanding, we must put national security first.
There are many other options to ensure ex-ISIS members can face fair justice without returning here. There could be multilateral collaboration to set up tribunals in the region, vetting each individual with help from authorities on the ground. A “Shamima Begum Act” should be passed permanently refusing entry to ISIS members found guilty of terror offences or other atrocities, with the UK helping regional governments incarcerate combatants. We cannot however bend over backwards and appease those who would defend our enemies even at the cost of their literal death.