On February 26, the UK’s highest courtroom dominated Shamima Begum, a 21-year-old girl of Bangladeshi descent who was stripped of her British citizenship after travelling to Syria to hitch ISIL (ISIS), shouldn’t be allowed to return to the nation to problem the choice.
The ruling made headlines the world over, as thousands and thousands have been following Begum’s tragic story carefully since she ran away from her East London dwelling aged simply 15 and travelled to Syria with two of her associates. It additionally delivered to the floor the anxieties lengthy felt by members of my group, British Bangladeshis.
East London is dwelling to the most important Bangladeshi group exterior of Bangladesh. That is the place Shamima Begum was born, raised and attended faculty till she determined to journey to Syria in 2015. After spending a number of years in Syria, Begum was “discovered” by a Instances journalist in a Syrian refugee camp in 2019.
The Instances’s so-called “discovery” began a nationwide dialogue about whether or not she needs to be allowed to return dwelling to Britain. Then-Residence Secretary Sajid Javid, nonetheless, reduce this dialog quick by swiftly saying the federal government’s intention to strip her of her British citizenship. Javid justified this choice in authorized phrases by claiming that Begum “holds Bangladeshi citizenship” by descent by way of her dad and mom. Begum on the time of the revocation was 19 and was eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship, however she would have needed to declare it by 21. The state minister of overseas affairs of Bangladesh, Shahriar Alam, asserted in an announcement to the British media simply days after Javid’s announcement that Begum was not a citizen of Bangladesh and can be denied entry to the nation.
Begum and her legal professionals appealed towards the choice to revoke her British citizenship and requested for her to be allowed to return to the nation to make her case. Three Courtroom of Attraction judges dominated in the summertime of 2020 that she ought to certainly be allowed again into the UK to problem the revocation. Nevertheless, the case was then taken to the Supreme Courtroom, and it dominated final month that whereas Begum does have a proper to problem the choice, she ought to achieve this from exterior Britain on account of “safety considerations”.
The choice to revoke Begum’s citizenship demonstrated how racialised our bodies are all the time in a limbo state in Britain. It made it clear to us that we’re all on the margins of this nation. That the state can revoke our citizenship at a whim and our British passports don’t essentially assure us entry to British justice.
The British state’s therapy of Begum confirmed our worst fears and compelled us to ask ourselves some very troublesome questions. Can the British state take away our passports if we commit an indiscretion? Are we too “overseas” or “brown” to be tried in British courts? If the state decides we dedicated an “unforgivable” crime, can it simply ship us again to Bangladesh?
These are, in fact, not new questions or fears. We’ve got lengthy been conscious that our standing in Britain is precarious. As influential author and activist Ambalavaner Sivanandan aptly put it again in 2006: “We put on our passports on our faces.”
At all times the ‘different’
Revocation of Begum’s citizenship highlights how racialised communities are outlined by hyphenated identities, comparable to British-Bangladeshi, on this nation.
The latter half – Bangladeshi – serves to indicate the place one really stands inside the racial hierarchisation of communities on this nation. The prefix “British” is simply added to sign non permanent decorum – it will probably swiftly be eliminated if and when the individual steps out of line.
Members of racialised communities are anticipated to repeatedly show that they’re worthy of British citizenship. Begum’s case clearly demonstrates that for these of us with hyphenated identities, citizenship is conditional, and the nation we name dwelling can simply banish us if we commit a perceived indiscretion.
This isn’t a problem that solely impacts the British-Bangladeshi group. In Britain, one’s racial, ethnic and non secular heritage, not their passport, determines their citizenship and place within the nation.
Following the revocation of Begum’s citizenship, some argued that she ought to have been allowed to maintain her passport as a result of she was born in Britain. However that is additionally a harmful argument that perpetuates the concept that there are completely different ranges of British citizenship. Sure, she was born within the UK. However even when she was not, it mustn’t have made any distinction. The state’s racism must be fought with out creating new situations to find out who has the proper to be within the nation.
The Windrush technology, the immigrants from Caribbean international locations who arrived within the UK after World Warfare II to handle labour shortages, is one other racialised group that the state tried to purge from Britain. As they confronted illegal deportation orders, many argued they need to be allowed to remain within the nation as a result of “they got here right here to assist us rebuild Britain”. Such arguments, nonetheless, are counterproductive as they try and make these immigrants’ citizenship rights conditional to their contributions and servility to the state. In spite of everything, British residents who’re white are by no means requested to be servile to the state or make substantial contributions to the nation to carry on to their passports and stay within the nation.
It’s unattainable to disclaim that the legacies of colonialism form and body Britain’s racialised residents’ lives, particularly those that have roots in former colonies. No matter the place they have been born or how a lot they contributed to British society, racialised residents are seen as “others” whose presence in Britain is merely tolerated and whose most elementary rights may be denied at will.
Britain’s continued try and dump Begum on Bangladesh, a rustic she had by no means stepped foot in, got here as no shock. This act was potential solely due to who Begum was and the obvious incontrovertible fact that she is a British Bangladeshi Muslim. The lesson we are able to take away from Shamima Begum’s case is that it represents the institutional racism endemic inside the British state.
The ordeal of Shamima Begum mustn’t shock anybody. In Britain, there’s a two-tier system of citizenship, and people of us who exist in racialised our bodies are being reminded that we by no means actually belong to this nation we name dwelling every day.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.