Sunday 10 March 2019

Begum the question

The opening discussion on this morning's Sunday programme has attracted interest. 

StewGreen, for example, characterised the discussion as being a ‘Bring them home Muslim’ vs a ‘Keep em out Muslim’, the latter being in favour of deprogramming camps “on the Turkish border or in Cyprus”. 

I thought Ismael South (the latter) was a thoughtful, engaging fellow but he did cast Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins as bogey-people, and the main reason for not letting Shamima Begum & her elk/ilk back into the country was that it would help their cause. 

(WTF...those 2 don’t do anything wrong, they are not terrorists", commented Stew to that.)

William Crawley was, of course, very BBC throughout.

Here's a transcript.

[My transcription was done with the help of TV Eyes - not that TV Eyes works well for radio. It kept mishearing the name 'Shamima Begum' and came up with several best-guesses: 'Jimmy Bacon', 'shimmy of bacon', 'some bacon' and 'mum Baker MPs'. ]


William Crawley: The death of Shamima Begum's baby son has reignited a political row and a moral debate about the Home Secretary's decision to revoke the 19 year-old British citizenship for travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State terror group. Miqdaad Versi is with us from the Muslim Council of Britain. Miqdaad, good morning to you and welcome. And, as you've just heard in the news bulletin, it's also been reported today by some of the Sunday papers that two more jihadi brides from the UK have been stripped of their citizenship, apparently living in refugee camps in Syria and being named this morning as Reema Iqbal and her sister Zara Iqbal. What's been the reaction within the Muslim community here to this unfolding and developing story?
Miqdaad Versi: I think that, in general with most of these issues, the reaction within the Muslim community is always mixed. There will be different perspectives across the country. But what's really important is that we as a country look and consider our commitment to justice and the rule of law in these areas. We have to be very careful about what the implications are of removing citizenship of those who happened to have dual nationality, which affects minority communities disproportionately. It will mean that those who have dual nationality - you know, especially those from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities - will feel and have expressed the view that their nationality as a British citizen is somehow less than others and they have fewer rights than everybody else. And that's something that is not ideal for our society
William Crawley: I see in The Observer today the Bishop of St Albans, Dr. Alan Smith, being cited and quoted saying "This is a human rights issue" and challenging the Home Secretary's decision to exclude Shamima Begum from the UK by taking away her citizenship. Do you share that sentiment that this is a human rights-focused issue?
Miqdaad Versi: I think we agree entirely. Human rights, the rule of law and justice are core principles for all of us, and it's important that the actions that are taken are those that are in the national interest and in line with the values that we believe in as a society and aren't in view of specific choices that are made by a Home Secretary for whatever reason that might help their own personal ambition. We can't know that for a fact. What we have to care about more, what we have to ensure is the case, that this is about the rule of law, justice and our commitment to human rights.
William Crawley: Let me also welcome Ismael South to the Sunday studio, director of the Salam project - a youth and community initiative. Good to see you. Good morning to you. And big questions today also about the potential implications in the United Kingdom for deradicalisation work of the kind you've been involved in in response to this case. Are their implications?
Ismael South: Definitely there are implications, but what it is that I would like to put across there, Shemima Begum and these two that you heard about today, according to our research, there's over 450 British people in prison camps, in Kurdish prison camps, around Syria. And not only that, there's thousands more from around Europe, thousands more including America, Oceania (that's Australia and New Zealand). And I believe the way...yes, we might not agree with what the Home Secretary has done but the reality is that we need to look at the solutions, because there's over 400 British citizens who are stuck in Syria. So I believe, because the British Muslim charities, they make over a billion pounds a year in the UK. Those are British Muslim charities. The top 40 British Muslims charities make over a billion pounds a year. And if we all be honest, around 35% of that is due to red tape and waste. So I believe if Sajid Javid and Theresa May want to look at a solution, not little plasters, if they were to ask the heads of these top 40 Muslim charities and say, look, we can have a facility on the Turkish border or in Cyprus and we want you to pay for it, and this is a place where these people can be debriefed, they could be used for Intel, counselled (because they're going to be suffering from trauma) and they could be risk-assessed and they could be utilised for research, and they also can be facilitated through various deradicalisation projects...
William Crawley: (interrupting) Alright, so you're suggesting that that should be done there, as it were? You're not, you're not, supporting bringing these people back to this country?
Ismael South: To be straight with you, I'm 50/50, because I see both sides. I believe if Shemima Begum was brought here to the UK it would give more power to people like Tommy Robinson Katie Hopkins, that type of elk, because they would use that as a horse, as a Trojan horse, to promote their rhetoric. And I believe... 
William Crawley: (interrupting) Can I  just bring Miqdaad Versi in on that?
Ismael South: Yes.
William Crawley: Just to test where you are on that question, Miqdaad. Do you agree with that?
Miqdaad Versi: I appreciate that perspective but I think that our commitment to the rule of law has to take priority over those perspectives. For example, someone like Anjem Choudary - an individual who is considered quite...massively negatively across all Muslims communities and across the country as a whole. He come out of prison. Like, should he have been kept in prison because it would have been "good" for Muslim communities or would have stopped Tommy Robinson and his ilk, etc. We shouldn't, of course we shouldn't do that. We need to follow the rule of law because those are the things...the commitment to justice, human rights, the rule of law, that's what makes us as a country. We should not be some stopping these values just because of these individuals. It doesn't make sense...
William Crawley: (interrupting) Ismael, very briefly?
Ismael South: With respect to Miqdaad Versi...I love Miqdaad Versi. He's a good man. He's done a lot of good work, and is very intellectual, but if it was up to me people like Anjem Choudary, his passport would be revoked and I would ship him back somewhere else because he's caused so much destruction, so much rifting communities, he's broken up so many families, and he makes it harder for Muslim communities around the UK.
William Crawley: Ismael South, thank you very much. Thanks also to Miqdaad Versi from the Muslim Council of Britain.. 


  1. Begum the Beguine.

    "A member of any of several lay sisterhoods"

    Seems apt.

  2. Type of elk...did he actually say that! :)

    This seems v. much in line with the new model BBC approach...if something concerns Muslims deeply, you are only allowed to have Muslims on to discuss.

    Regarding Versi's claim that "human rights" are a core principle for all of us, let's remember that the Islamic States union (the OIC) formally rejected the UN Declaration on Human Rights and adopted a meaningless alternative (the Cairo declaration) which is compatible with Sharia law and therefore has no human rights protection.

    1. He did say 'elk' but, as Miqdaad Versi assumed, he must have meant 'ilk'. What with the 'horse' though, I'd still like to think he meant it to be 'elk'. Elks are fine creatures.

  3. It's funny to hear me ole dad from the MCB coming over all soft spoken, human rights, the rule of law and who we are as a country (ye gods, it almost makes me wish for the old angry ranting, thumping MCB), considering the Muslims insisted on setting up their own human rights commission because they're 'special' when it comes to human rights.


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