Why ISIS refugee Shamima Begum deserves fair hearing in Britain – Qari Asim

THE ruling on Shamima Begum’s fight for citizenship has resonated strongly among communities. There are important facts within this case, remembering that Shamima was a child when she first chose to join ISIS, which the public has not come to learn.

Shamima Begum has been refused permission to return to Britain, prompting much debate.
Shamima Begum has been refused permission to return to Britain, prompting much debate.

Many believe that Shamima was entitled to a fair trial here in the UK, as this is provided for under international human rights law, and is therefore a legal requirement.

The Court of Appeal has claimed that the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public, but putting stringent and appropriate security in place would ensure that public safety would not be compromised.

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Refusing to bring back a groomed teenager to subject her to a fair trial under UK law unfortunately sets a disconcerting precedent.

Leeds imam Qari Asim.

There are always two sides to every story, and Shamima’s story, despite her obvious wrongdoings, deserves to be heard so the full picture is taken into consideration before any final decision is made.

Shamima had her citizenship revoked by the UK two years ago; under international law, this does not currently stand as it is illegal to make someone stateless.

She has no other citizenship at this time, so right now, she is technically still a British citizen and therefore it could be argued that she should be treated appropriately.

Her returning to the UK for a fair trial would not mean she isn’t guilty of joining a terrorist group, but it would provide her with an opportunity to explain her actions and the consequences of her ill-judgement, and be held accountable accordingly.

While her choice to leave the UK is something we all condemn, we must remember she was a child and groomed online. Radicalisation is a complex and dangerous issue our society faces, and is something I, along with many other activists and organisations, continue to tackle.

ISIS extremists sow hate to divide society and pray on young people within the online space. Over the past year there has been a 10 per cent increase in Prevent referrals, 24 per cent of which were regarding individuals referred due to concerns related to Islamist radicalisation.

There is no denying her guilt. She chose to join ISIS, a defiant and deadly group which has taken the lives of many innocent UK citizens and indeed citizens globally.

The Government’s stance to ensure our safety is of paramount importance, but the consideration here is that the right to a fair trial is within international law and should be abided by to ensure that the chapter of Shamima can be closed once and for all.

We must also think about her family during this time, who should not be subject to further distress through the treatment of their daughter. Shamima wrongly chose to live under a terrorist regime, but, for her relatives’ closure, whose lives have been so devastatingly impacted, Shamima should have been able to stand a trial in the UK.

As an Imam, the narratives I see coming out of the Shamima case time and time again blur the lines between terrorism and religion. As a country, we cannot let terrorists define what true Islam means.

I urge everyone to raise their voices against this destructive and warped ideology propagated by ISIS and such other extremists.

We all have a duty, as friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues and members of our communities to help safeguard those that are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and to do all we can to ensure no one else chooses the same path as Shamima.

Imam Qari Asim is a senior Imam at Makkah Mosque Leeds and senior editor of ImamsOnline.

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