Posted on February 28, 2024

Jacob Rees-Mogg Says Decision to Strip Shamima Begum of UK Citizenship Is ‘Racist’ and ‘Wrong’

Mark Paul, Irish Times, February 26, 2024

The British government policy that was used to strip Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship is “fundamentally racist” and her citizenship should be restored, according to Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Begum (24), who sneaked away from her London family to join the Islamic State terror group in Syria as a 15-year old in 2015, last week lost a court appeal against the UK government’s 2019 decision to strip her of citizenship. Her lawyers argue she was a victim of child-trafficking and have indicated she will appeal to the supreme court.

Rees-Mogg, a former cabinet member and standard bearer of the Tory right wing, said the decision by former home secretary Sajid Javid to strip her of her citizenship was “wrong and ought never to have been made”.

“This is not because Begum was groomed, trafficked and raped. These are serious considerations, and in all normal circumstances, a 15-year-old treated in such a barbarous way would not be held culpable for her actions,” he wrote in the Spectator magazine.

He said on both equality grounds and the fact she had been deprived of the right to a fair trial she should not have been stripped of UK citizenship.

Begum and two other school girls from east London sneaked to Syria via Turkey in February 2015 when Islamic State propaganda about the creation of a Muslim caliphate was at its height. Her two friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, are both believed to have since died.

Begum, then aged 19, was discovered by a British journalist in a detention camp in northern Syria in 2019. Then pregnant with her third child by a Dutch-born jihadist, she said she wanted to return to Britain to have her baby – the first two had died as infants.

The British government refused and indicated it would strip her of citizenship, however. Javid said this was based on an intelligence services assessment that she posed a risk to the UK. He said the fact that her parents were from Bangladesh meant she could become a citizen of there instead, although the Bangladeshi government subsequently warned that she would not be admitted there.

Begum, whose third baby also died in infancy, has denounced Islamic State, also known as Isis, but has lost a series of legal battles to return to the UK. In 2023, she lost an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission against the decision to strip her of UK citizenship. Last week, the court of appeal backed the legality of commission’s ruling.

Rees-Mogg said the fact that her parents were Bangladeshi, giving her potential citizenship there, had created grounds for stripping her UK rights that would not be available to wield against other UK citizens. He said this created “two classes of Britons” – those with the right of citizenship in another country who could as a result have their Britishness stripped away, and those who didn’t.

“This is a fundamentally racist policy as it denies the absolute Britishness of all those who are either recent immigrants themselves or their children,” said the MP.

He also said Begum deserved the right to a fair trial in Britain, and should not have that right taken away by a government administrative decision.

Begum’s lawyers said last week they would “not stop fighting until she gets justice and until she is safely home”. If a supreme court appeal fails, her legal team could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.