Shamima Begum and British racism

The decision to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum is racist.

Shamima Begum went to join Islamic State with two friends as a 15 year old. Not old enough to vote, she succumbed to ISIS propaganda and was lured to the promises of a new life building a new society. Alienated from Britain, the country she had grown up in, she decided to join a fanatical murder cult.

That immediately tells you something is wrong.

Not Islamic State has finally collapsed under the hammer blows of Western Coalition forces and the Kurds, Begum and countless others are in refugee camps.
After being found by a journalist she said she still agreed with the overall political project of Islamic State. Nevertheless as a heavily 19 year old pregnant refugee she hoped to return back to Britain.

Facing a witch hunt in the media about dangerous terrorists Sajid Javid decided to revoke her citizenship.

In doing so he demonstrated just how reactionary Britain truly is. This act alone is the kind of thing that will create future Shamima Begums. It will add to the growing sense of unease that some people have that they are not truly welcome in Britain, despite being born here, raised here and schooled here. They will always be made to feel foreign.

The powers with which Javid expelled Begum from the UK are contained in Margaret Thatcher’s 1981 British Nationality Act (BNA 1981). BNA 1981 was heavily criticised by anti racist activists and intellectuals at the time. They condemned it as “an attempt by the government to further circumvent the rights of those black Commonwealth citizens with a legal right to enter Britain and to construct the question of nationalist along racial lines.” Even Roy Hattersley condemned the law as “shabby”, one that institutionalised racism. Because it put so much emphasis on who your parents were it directly fed into arguments around bloodlines and family kinship, leaving second generation immigrants born in Britian vulnerable to being deported and having their citizenship revoked by a Home Secretary.

Begum has been made stateless by a Home Secretary revoking her citizenship despite the fact she was born in the UK. Because her mother is Bangladeshi the argument goes that she can go and live in Bangladesh with her child.
So without a trial, without any right to make her case she has been judged by Javid to be guilty and exiled from the country. Javid acts like a medieval Duke, casting out a peasant that has displeased him.

This is racist because it could never happen to a white person born in Britain with British parents. It makes it clear to thousands of British people living in Britain that they might be British but they are always more vulnerable, more precarious, that their passports cannot protect them, that their citizenship can be revoked with a stroke of a pen. The implications of this – in the context of the Windrush scandal along with the now regular deportation of Black and Asian people who have committed minor offences to countries that their parents were from – is clear.

They are second class citizens, and their second class nature if defined by their skin colour and their heritage.
 

Published by

Simon H

Tooting CLP and Lambeth UNISON

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