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1st August, 2020

Shamima. To ape Nabokov on another troublesome teenage girl: Sham-ee-mah: stateless person, doyenne of human rights lawyers, pain in the neck and – doorway to returning jihadis?

The story so far: In February 2015 Ms Begum, then aged 15, left her home in Bethnal Green, east London, with two friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, to join the Isis ‘caliphate’ in Syria, where, as they well knew, unspeakable cruelty was the mode de vie: summary punishments, televised beheadings of Western hostages, mass slaughters of people who happened to be in the wrong branch of Islam, homosexuals tortured and flung off buildings – Shamima and her pals could not wait to get to this holiday camp called pandemonium.

At the time the then Conservative home secretary Nicky Morgan said that ‘everyone was praying for the safe return of the girls’. I remember doubting very much that ‘everyone’ was. I also remember vaguely wondering what would happen when the girls would inevitably return to Britain. Would they be on chat shows or make a pop record? I was only slightly joking: our trashed culture is capable of anything now.

Meanwhile according to witnesses Shamima was having a great time in the caliphate: various newspapers claimed that she had married a Dutch convert to Islamism within ten days of arriving, had joined the Isis ‘morality police’, was enforcing strict dress regulation on others while toting a Kalashnikov, and had a nice side-line in embroidery: stitching people into suicide vests so they could not escape detonation.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and so it was that the caliphate collapsed in 2017 and everyone – all normal people anyway, which of course excludes politicians and social justice warriors – had forgotten about Shamima.

In February 2019 the war correspondent of The Times found her in a refugee camp in northeast Syria. At that point she was largely defiant, stating in her cocky way that British people should feel sorry for her. She wanted to come back and have kids in the excellent NHS, she said. (No doubt when she returns she will be out banging pots and pans for nurses every Thursday, Muslim ones at any rate).

Shortly afterwards Sajid Javid, the then home secretary, stripped her of British citizenship, telling her to apply for a Bangladeshi passport – the country from which her parents emigrated to Britain. The stage was then set for a battle between familiar forces in Britain: empiricism and common sense – comprising of taxpayers, the ‘silent majority’ and a few centre-right newspapers – versus do-gooding abstraction, the latter camp, in no particular order, comprised of the legal establishment, academia the Church of England, the BBC, the wider media and the Labour Party.

The do-gooder camp has won most of the important battles in Britain for many years. Its first major defeat, one which caused a collective mental breakdown in its ranks, was the Brexit referendum. However, I knew that Shamima would get her way eventually. She started by changing her appearance and tone, clearly her public image was being manipulated by advisers. Though she failed in her first bid to come back when a unanimous ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) went against her, I felt sure that her lawyers – kindly paid for by us the taxpayers – would come up trumps in the end. It is worth noting the Siac ruling, which can easily be found on the internet. Its basic gist shows why stripping the overseas Islamist of British citizenship is the best way to deal with them: they are beyond the reach of the European Court of Human Rights’ diktats – the gold standard charter for undermining governments’ authority – and, because they are almost always the children of immigrants, they have another country they can go to. This was the Siac judges’ considered opinion in Shamima’s case. However, as I say, her lawyers kept rolling the appeal dice and came up trumps.

During her Court of Appeal hearing her lawyer rather pricelessly said: “Just because somebody has gone out to Syria it is not an indication they pose a security risk.”

Lord Justice Flaux, sitting with two other judges, evidently agreed, and allowed Shamima to return to appeal the Siac ruling, adding: ‘Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns.’

All seasoned observers, I count myself as one, knew that Shamima was always going to make it back, and also knew that whatever pretext she returned on, in this case being able to take part in her appeal, she would never leave. However, the judges’ comment that Shamima’s case trumped national security concerns was, even given the prevailing left-wing mindset of the judiciary, astonishing. This was the Hampstead de haut en bas mentality triple distilled.

The judges seemed to agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons – a politician of the Conservative Party, an organisation whose upmost thought these days is maintaining good public relations with ethnic minorities – who said that Shamima was a British problem and that no one should ever be stripped of their citizenship. Some suggested that to do so would tarnish our civilisation.

I see it differently. Our civilisation has been tarnished by so many legal judgments and government policies – off the top of one’s head one thinks of Muslim grooming gangs, politicised sentencing, our relationship with terror-financing middle eastern countries and slave state communist China, and even the mass deceit of the Iraq War. After so much bad policy, why is a ruling on the side of the safety of the nation uncivilised? Who are we trying to impress? Jihadis? The UN? The Third World? They won’t be impressed, trust me.  Then there is our apparently high-minded refusal to pay ransoms for British citizens held by Islamists, many of which have died unspeakably awful deaths, while at the same time urging the Queen to buddy up with IRA leaders of yore and, as I say, keeping in with the House of Saud. Given that unlovely catalogue of grubby expediency, and there is plenty more where that came from (remember ‘extraordinary rendition’, anyone?) to cry barbarism at stripping Shamima of British citizenship reminds me of Claude Rains as the corrupt policeman Captain Renault in Casablanca: during a raid on Humphrey Bogart’s nightclub he yells that he is shocked by the gambling going on there – just as a passing croupier hands him his winnings, which he eagerly pockets.

Law is interpreted by judges and is based on precedent. Shamima’s case, therefore, will be watched very closely by the many British jihadis who now wish to return to the country they hate. In my opinion her case is, and was from the start, a test to see if Islamists can get themselves back in the boat and under the protection of Brussels and the British legal establishment. Experts have said that hundreds could come back in its wake. They will cost a fortune in surveillance and will keep more than a few MI6 spooks awake at night as it seems likely a few will try to carry on the fight against us here. You would think that under the circumstances common sense would prevail. Not in the do-gooding camp, their minds move in the higher abstractions.

For me the issue hinges on what takes precedent: the mess made for herself by a hate-filled young woman from the disastrous multicultural experiment forced on Britain by the Left; or the wider concern of national security thrown up by her case. I think the latter is more important, and will be shown to be so in the difficult years which are ahead.

Laxton Flowers is a national newspaper journalist

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