The Shamima Begum story keeps on rumbling, in part because ordinary folk like thee and me keep blogging about it. This is my third post in a row about the controversy.
But the main reason it persists is because it suits the media and the politicians to keep the argument going. The question of whether to facilitate Ms Begum’s return to the UK or to revoke her citizenship, is perfectly polarising, which makes it ideal click-bait. Every news item on each fresh new interview, and every clipped soundbite from presenters and politicians on LBC gathers angry comments. Perfect ‘engagement’ for the algorithms.
But it’s not just the tabloids and the talk radio companies making hay out of this. The terrorists and the Tories are benefitting too, to the detriment of everyone’s human rights.
We should first remember how terrorists operate. They know that they cannot beat established national and international powers in open combat (even when they established their proto-caliphate in Syria/Iraq). So they seek to inspire acts of terror, atrocities designed to provoke a backlash from the country that has been hit. Their aim is to create a them-and-us situation, where the minorities living in the country (in this case, Muslims in the UK) feel sufficiently rejected by the state that they begin to have sympathy with the terrorists.
I think a similar situation is playing out here. Shamima Begum’s statements to journalists, in which she appears to show no remorse for her stupidity, is an obvious kind of trolling. They are made in order to provoke anger back in the UK. A backlash. An overreaction.
And it totally worked. Usually, it takes a suicide attack on British soil before the Home Secretary of the day seeks to award themselves rights eroding powers. In this case, all it took was a few arrogant statements to a couple of journalists, before Sajid Javid chucked all the rules out the window and made her stateless. His decision is a PR coup for the Islamists.
Why was Sajid Javid so quick to abandon international principles and human rights? Well, because he is in a sense complicit in the ISIS strategy. Stepping into their trap helps them, but it helps him too.
Here’s how this will play out. Ms Begum and her family will appeal the Home Secretary’s ruling. The Government will fight the case, but it’s highly likely that it will fail, and Shamima Begum will have her British citizenship restored.
Sajid Javid and Theresa May will complain about this in public… but privately they will be absolutely delighted with such a result. Because it will give them a magnificent rhetorical cudgel to beat the concept of human rights, and its manifestations in Law: the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act 1998.
Theresa May is already on the record as wanting to withdraw from the ECHR. The last Conservative Party Manifesto contained the ominous promise that they wouldn’t seek to leave the ECHR while Brexit was ongoing – implying that once we have left the EU, our human rights laws and treaties would be the next thing on the bonfire.
Since Mrs May’s days as Prime Minister are numbered, ministers such as Mr Javid are manoeuvring for the leadership contest to come. Regrettably, hostility to human rights seems to be something that the Conservative Party electorate sees as a positive. It’s a sad and (in my view) un-British attitude, but it’s where we are. The concept of human rights does not enjoy universal support among the wider electorate either.
So it totally suits Sajid Javid to engineer a showdown with the courts over the citizenship rights of Shamima Begum. Regardless of the outcome of the eventual court case, it’s win-win for him, because he is on the morally reprehensible but populist side of the argument.
What makes it worse is I suspect Mr Javid is clever enough to understand that he has engaged in a kind of Faustian Pact. His populist-but-illegal stance may bring him the Tory leadership and the keys to 10 Downing Street, but at the cost of our human rights framework.
There is, however, a sad difference between the original Faust story, and the tacit bargain between Javid and the Islamists. In Goethe’s story, the titular Doctor bargains with his own soul; whereas Sajid Javid is on a trajectory to sacrifice everyone else’s human rights protections, yours and mine. He’s weakening British values and making us less safe, and there does not appear to be much of a downside for him. It’s all deeply depressing.