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Lindy McDowell: If Shamima Begum had been a man would there have been same debate about bringing her back to the UK?

Shamima Begum being shown a copy of the Home Office letter stripping her of her British citizenship
Shamima Begum being shown a copy of the Home Office letter stripping her of her British citizenship
Theresa May
Lindy McDowell

By Lindy McDowell

It's been a bit of a testing old week for expat UK members of the jihadi community following news that one of their number has been declared persona non grata by the British Government.

Having departed the country to join the terrorist beheaders of ISIS, having decried Western values and having vociferously rejected the infidels, they will be unsettled to learn that occasionally these things do come full circle.

The infidels are now rejecting them.

At the centre of this week's repatriation request is Shamima Begum, aka the jihadi bride, who has recently given birth to a baby boy and now wants to come back to the UK to avail of NHS healthcare.

Her plea has been turned down by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

What happens in the days ahead is hard to predict. But perhaps the most interesting statistic in all this is that, in various polls, around three-quarters of all respondents - and sometimes more - back the decision to strip her of citizenship.

There is about Ms Begum's story a fair bit of "on the one hand" and "on the other".

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On the one hand - and I do have a lot of sympathy here - she was only 15, an impressionable airhead young girl, when she and her two school friends decided to fly out to the caliphate where they would find themselves jihadi grooms and settle down to a life of Daesh domesticity.

On the other hand she is now 19, has lost two children of her own and seen at first-hand the barbarity of ISIS terrorism. Yet she still comes across as unbothered and unrepentant.

She describes the Manchester Arena bombing as retaliation for Western attacks on ISIS. And, she adds, she's "okay" with the beheading business.

On the one hand, you have to think a cleverer, indeed more sleekit interviewee might have chosen to lambast the terror outfit, whatever her real views on the subject.

On the other hand, she's sitting in a refugee camp in Syria surrounded by dear knows who. You can see why she might think it's not the safest place and time to be expressing criticism of fellow fanatics.

But what has really got people's backs up is Shamima's apparent sense of jihadi entitlement. Interviewed after she'd been informed by letter that her British citizenship was being rescinded, she was surprisingly narky.

"It's a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it's a bit unjust on me and my son," she said.

Define "unjust"...

The savage decapitation of an innocent aid worker? Children and young people massacred at a pop concert?

The vacuous, gauche Ms Begum is not exactly making a great case for herself.

But what of her child?

The infant is undeniably innocent.

Bringing him back though, separating him from his mother, could serve to transform her into that most potent weapon of terrorist groupings.

The martyr.

Ms Begum was party to, and supportive of, a terrorist enterprise. If she was male would there have been the same debate about repatriation we've seen?

The problem for the British Government is this - that even though early polls are strongly against the jihadi bride's return, she is unlikely to disappear from those headlines any time soon.

Let her in and you concede the return of hundreds of other potentially dangerous fanatics.

But keep her out and you risk turning her into a cause celebre, a rallying point, a maternal martyr for the caliphate.

On the one hand, barring Ms Begum might seem the easy, obvious, popular and most expedient course.

On the other hand... it might not be.

Life's a chain in the neck for May

When she isn't kicking cans down the road, Theresa May must devote a fair bit of time to sourcing and snapping up oversized necklaces of which she seems to have an endless supply. Mostly they're big, brightly-coloured, beady things. This week she opted for a large, garish chain, ironically enough, given that she's having such difficulty untethering the UK from the EU. If the current job does go pear-shaped she could bring out her own outsize jewellery line. It's not just affairs of state that are always weighing on the PM.

DUP feels squeeze from rebel MPs

Congested seating situation of the week... the influx by members of The Independent Group on to Commons benches alongside the DUP. This, you would think, might create a bit of a squeeze on the benches if further Labour and Tory dissenters join the new breakaway band. When three former Tories sat down beside him this week, Ian Paisley looked particularly disinterested, perusing his phone. But what if more converts to TIG pile in as has been forecast? Could local sitting members end up standing?

Brexit car trouble for Porsche buyers is really the least of our worries

Brexit — let’s call the whole thing off. Week after week we’ve been bombarded with scare stories about various deprivations awaiting us as B-Day looms closer. This week the Beeb reported on what, for some, might be the clincher.

Apparently, Porsches may have to go up in price. A whole 10% or thereabouts.

The warning comes from the German manufacturers, who worry that tariffs on their swanky vehicles may have to be imposed from March.

The cost of an “entry-level” Porsche 911 could rise from £93,110 to £102,421.

This is not only a very large price hike but is also surprisingly specific.  You’d think they might round it down a pound.

That said, you would also imagine that if a buyer was financially fluid enough to afford the current £93,110 they could scrape together the few extra thousands which may be required post-Brexit.

Much more worthy of our sympathy surely have to be the car workers of Swindon currently facing massive job losses in 2021 when Honda pulls the plug (the firm insists this move is linked to the demand for electric vehicles and other changes in the industry and not to the UK leaving the EU). True, some Brexit scare stories are genuinely worrying.

But the challenges facing the would-be owners of wildly expensive high performance sports cars aren’t currently to the forefront of most consumers’ thoughts.

However it pans out, as ever, it’s the working man and woman who will likely be hardest hit.

The Porsche people will always get by.

Belfast Telegraph


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