Shamima Begum: Two Minutes Hate

The development of the Shamima Begum story, and the discourse around it, has been fascinating and depressing.
Last week I posted the argument for why I thought she should be brought back to the UK to face British justice. Since then, in a rare foray into the jungle, I’ve posted similar arguments in various Facebook comments sections. In response, people have posted the most vile things, entirely unaware of the irony of doing so.
For example, here’s Neil, a father, calling for the actual beheading of someone:

While Corey, who is refurbishing his house, is more clinical but equally dismissive of British values.

Noah seems to think that advocating for the rule of law makes me ‘scum’

I prefer Richard’s comment tbh:
That’s all in response to one comment, so imagine what politicians and controversial journalists must get every day of the week.
On my own Facebook time-line, I’m pleased to report that things are a lot calmer. But there are still plenty of people posting messages demanding that we bin our international treaties and make Shamima Begum stateless (which I understand the Home Secretary has just done). There are still plenty of people happy to abandon a newborn British baby to the lawlessness of Syria. Plenty of people showing the flakiest commitment to British laws, preferring hot revenge over cold justice.
I think the Shamima Begum story dominates the news because its an opportunity for us to engage in the ‘two minutes hate‘ of George Orwell.  We express solidarity with each other by finding a figure of hate, and shouting at her. A form of virtue signalling that achieves nothing. It is deeply unedifying and un-British.

3 Replies to “Shamima Begum: Two Minutes Hate”

  1. I agree with one of your points. You shouldn’t abandon fellow citizens.
    I’m reminded of when U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl was swapped for five high-value Gitmo detainees — a very distasteful and lop-sided trade — but there is that principle of getting our people back.
    But I have a few nits to pick.
    You hold up the idea of facing British justice as meaning anything here. She’s a girl, and not technically a combatant. She’s not going to admit to being part of any terror plots. She’d face the same justice as your returning Gitmo detainees did. I believe you were happy that they’d each received a million pounds for their trouble. After all, what they could be proved of doing wasn’t then a “crime” under British law either.
    You should try to understand why people are frustrated and angry. It’s not simply this one terror-loving girl. It’s the years of warping your country’s values into something they don’t recognize. Had a fascist 19 year-old British girl been returned from Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill could have had her properly locked up until the end of the war. Now, some can’t even decide whether or not they’re at war, and what the rules should be. The rest are angry.
    Once home, Shamina Begum would have been surrounded by friends who believe as she does. She’d be more likely to falsely accuse your government of torture than to allow herself to be used for propaganda. I’d have been surprised if you had anybody confront her on wife-beating, slavery, stoning of adulteresses and whatever means of punishment she thinks should be used on gays.
    Most Muslims today readily oppose such things, but supporters of ISIS and Al Qaeda don’t. The people who put her on that train don’t. But they understand they’re at war, and what that means.
    Ms. Begum would just be one more voice (and another voter, as she is an adult) to demand refusal of actual victims. Asia Bibi’s case suggests you already have far too many as it is. Their principles are different than yours.
    I do wonder, however, if she and her two now-dead friends might never have left home if it hadn’t been for all the propaganda against us during the war. That’s something to consider the next time you see stuff repeated that may or may not be true.
    It may sound like I don’t really mean it when I say she should come home. But I do. I just don’t believe she should be respected until she changes her ways. She and her friends should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, not treated as victims. They belong in another century.
    My apologies for the length.

    1. My apologies for the length

      No need to apologise, I appreciate you taking the time to engage.
      I take issue with the idea of “warping your country’s values into something they don’t recognise”. I don’t recognise this as a description of my country. We have a strong sense of our values, rule of law and civic nationalism. There is plenty of integration and if anyone’s values are ‘warped’ is that of the immigrants, who overwhelmingly ‘assimilate’ (that word makes me as a Star Trek fan slightly anxious) to our way of life. Shamima Begum and her ilk are newsworthy because they are so few out of the nearly 70 million people and a tiny proportion of the 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. Our culture and way of life are simply not threatened by these people…
      … unless we let them threaten our way of life, by changing it into something less tolerant and liberal. Which is what many people seem to be advocating, under the guise of concern for the security and safety.
      I also disagree that she would be “surrounded by friends who believe as she does.” Why on earth would that be the case? We have many legal mechanisms at our disposal to ensure that doesn’t happen – prison, civil orders (what used to be called ASBOs) and then a framework of counter-extremism programmes designed to neuter such people. You say you would be “surprised if anyone confronted her on wife-beating” – I’d be surprised if, on her return, her life is not a series of confrontations with people challenging her on every aspect of what she has done, said, and what ISIS stands for. If she returns home her life will be a relentless encounter with hostility – especially from the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have particular reason to be angry with her.
      I don’t think I’m arguing that she should be ‘respected’ aside from respect for her basic human rights. I certainly don’t respect her opinions and I don’t think she’ll find a safe space for her views, outside of her own house. Indeed, since her parents have disavowed her decision to travel, she won’t find sympathy there either.

      1. It’s true that the extremists are a small but considerable percentage of Muslims. Assimilation can go both ways, particularly when one side punches above their weight.
        They are changing your way of life. Would Amnesty have partnered with former Gitmo detainees 20 years earlier? Maybe, if they could find one who opposes torture.
        To their eternal shame, Amnesty’s former partner Moazzam Begg was asked about wife-beating, and later about stoning for adultery. He proudly supports one, and won’t give a clear answer on the other. It was later, but they knew from the start.
        You may remember when Amnesty’s gender unit head complained. This was in the age when Wikileaks was celebrated for revealing classified info. But Amnesty dismissed her for complaining openly. They didn’t stop their deal with Begg until much later. Amnesty would never have done this in an earlier generation. The times have changed.
        BTW: I was a member of Amnesty for a couple years back in the ’90s. I don’t say that for points, but only to show that I’ve been a bit more aware of the group than the average American.
        You’ve also taken in Gitmo detainee Shaker Aamer in spite of the fact that he wasn’t a British citizen, was still wanted by his home country, and refused to go home years earlier when he had that chance. All you’ve gotten from him since then is that he opposes attacks within the U.K., although not attacks on British, American or Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan.
        You can hope that Shamina Begum wouldn’t gain many friends, but Aamer had lots of support. Look at petitions demanding his return and you’ll see names associated with human rights causes unashamedly mixed in with extremists. The world is changing.
        I don’t know what your counter-extremism program could do with Ms. Begum. She’s not a threat, other than as a symbol. On that, I take your earlier point that taking her in could have become an ideological victory. But that could also have been achieved by turning the former Gitmo detainees, and getting them to support democracy in Afghanistan, instead of the other way around. That’s why I didn’t see hope for success in her case. I’ve become a pessimist in this way.

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