#ShamimaBegum: It’s Time for Black Brits to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.
by Ahmed Olayinka Sule , CFA
Early this week, The British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid stripped Shamima Begum, a British teenager of her British Citizenship. To recap, in 2015 at the age of 15 years, Ms Begum left the UK and travelled to Syria to become a “Jihadi bride” to an ISIS fighter. Over the next four years, she got married had two children, witnessed the death of two children and her husband, became a refugee and became pregnant with her third child. In a recent interview, she expressed her desire to return to Britain to give birth to her child as she felt it would reduce the chances of her losing a third child. During an interview, she expressed no remorse about her actions. The British public followed her story with many expressing fear that her return would constitute a security risk, while others argued she should return and face the British justice system. The Home Secretary then wrote a letter to her family informing them that she would be stripped of her British citizenship.
The objective of this piece is not to discuss the merits or demerits of the Home Secretary’s action. Neither is it to discuss whether or not Ms Begum is a victim or a villain. Rather, it is addressed specifically to people who identify as black/brown British and generally to the black Diaspora in the West.
With the revocation of Shamima Begum’s citizenship, it is time for Black and Brown Brits to wake up and smell the coffee — YOU ARE NOT BRITISH. With all due respect, a number of you delude yourselves into thinking that because you reside in Britain and have a British passport, you are British. It’s an illusion. At best you are citizens of your heritage be it African, Asian or the Middle East and at worst, you are second class pseudo-British nationals who are one crime away from being stripped of your British citizenship. Some of you may be dismissive of Shamima Begum’s case arguing that “She deserves what she got after all she is a terrorist sympathiser and has shown no remorse.” To justify your argument, you may state, “Unlike Ms Begum, I deserve my British citizenship” and offer a number of reason such as — I was born here, my parents were born here, I passed the citizenship exam , I am a law-abiding citizen, I cried when England lost to Croatia at the World Cup , I have lots of white friends, I have a British accent, I pay my taxes, I am not a terrorist, I eat strawberries at Wimbledon, I am a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, I work in the City , I live in the suburbs, I went to Oxford etc. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Shamima Begum would not be first neither will she be the last person to be stripped of her British citizenship. Neither is Britain the only country that is capable of revoking citizenship. However, Britain has one of the most draconian citizenship-stripping processes in the world, which targets predominately people of colour. According to Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981, a person’s citizenship can be revoked on the grounds of fraud, false representation or concealment of material fact or on grounds of conduciveness to the public good. The grounds for stripping people of their British citizenship has changed over the years. Initially, a person could be stripped for obtaining a passport by fraud, then only naturalised citizens could lose their citizenship. Later, the rules were changed to enable the Home Secretary to revoke citizenship from UK dual nationals whose citizenship are deemed not conducive to the public good. But following Begum’s case, the grounds for stripping people of their British citizenships has shifted to a new phase which increases the likelihood of person of colour being stripped of their citizenship. Under the current rules, since Ms Begum was born in Britain and does not hold another nationality, her citizenship can’t be revoked as she would be rendered stateless in contravention with international law. In justifying Ms Begum’s citizenship revocation, the Home Secretary argued that because her parents are of Bangladeshi “heritage”, it means she can apply for citizenship of that country. The subtext of this new ruling is that if your heritage is not British and you are not white, then you can have your citizenship revoked if you commit an act that is not conducive to the public good. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Samantha Lewthwaite, the so-called Jihadi white widow is a white British citizen and the daughter of a former British army soldier was married to a terrorist responsible for causing the deaths of over 400 people. Despite her link to Al-Shabaab, her involvement in a grenade attack in Mombasa and the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left 71 dead, her British citizenship has not been revoked. Jack Letts (Jihadi Jack), a white British citizen who is also a Canadian national is currently in a Kurdish prison arrested on suspicion of being affiliated with ISIS. Despite the fact that Jack Letts has dual citizenship, he has not been stripped of his British citizenship.
Without a doubt, engaging or supporting terrorism or child sexual exploitation is an act that is not conducive to the public good. But through a strange formula, it appears that it is when black and brown people commit these horrendous crimes that the revocation of citizenship comes into force. The government is emphatic in stressing the urgency of stripping them of their citizenship. For instance, three members of the Rochdale grooming gang (which comprised of men of Asian descent) had their citizenship revoked. Britons of dual nationalities who have joined ISIS have had their citizenship revoked. But do we see the same urgency when white British men engage in child exploitation both within and without Britain? Though not widely acknowledged, Britain has a serious problem with paedophilia and this is evidenced by a number of white British men who travel to the four corners of the world to prey on innocent and poor children. Despite this historic preying tendency by white men, it was a British-Indian paedophile who became the first Briton to be stripped of his citizenship on the grounds of paedophilia. Wake up and smell the coffee.
In contrast. a number of white Brits have been arrested, in foreign countries and instead of having their citizenship revoked, they are allowed to utilise the consular services in the countries of their arrest. According to the Foreign Office, between 2013 and 2017, there were 361 requests from British citizens for consular assistance from UK citizens following their arrest for child sex offences. After serving his sentence in Vietnam for sexually exploiting children, Gary Glitter, the white British singer was deported to Britain and placed on a Sex Offenders’ Register. He still went on to sexually assault a minor. Were Gary Glitters’ actions conducive to the public good? If not, why does he still retain his British citizenship? In the curious case of Rolf Harris, the white British Australian entertainer was arrested in 2013 for sexually assaulting two girls between fourteen and sixteen years and possessing indecent child images. Despite his Australian heritage, he was not stripped of his British citizenship or deported to Australia. Was Rolf Harris’ action conducive to the public good? Wake up and smell the coffee.
Bob Diamond the former CEO of Barclays Bank Plc was once described by Lord Mandelson as the “unacceptable face of banking.” During his reign as Barclays head, the company was fined £290 million for fixing Libor and Euribor rates. A senior official alleged that Diamond asked him to lower Libor rates. Eventually, Diamond resigned from the bank following the scandal. Despite the atrocities, Bob Diamond who holds dual American and British citizenship did not have his British passport revoked. Neither was he deported to America. Does banking fraud running into billions of pounds fall within the remit of action conducive to the public good?
Conversely, when Kweku Adoboli finished completing his sentence after illegally trading away $2 billion while working at UBS, he was deported to Ghana. Wake up and smell the coffee.
So, from the above examples, you can see that one rule applies to white Brits who fall foul of the law and another rule applies to black and brown brits who fall foul of the law.
The stripping of the citizenship of black and brown Brits who engage in activities not conducive to the public good while leaving out white Brits plays into the white supremacist narrative that the colour of crime is black. Furthermore, in a society that has a criminal justice that criminalises black and brown people one should not be surprised that under Javid’s new ruling, black and brown people will be impacted the most. Brothers and sisters, you need to wake up and realise that the terms Black British, African British, Caribbean British and Asian British are all oxymorons. The only people who can be truly British are whites. You are not really welcome here, you are only tolerated here. Left to their devices, Britain will be a black and brown free zone. If you think I have lost the plot, then ask yourself the question, “Why is that when people ask where I come from and I reply Brixton or Birmingham, the follow-up question is where you from are originally?” Otherwise, think about this government’s dehumanisation of the Windrush generation and their offspring’s. You might speak the Queens English or No English; go to Cambridge or No Bridge; live in the suburbs or the ghetto. However, when you turn your back, as far as this British government is concerned, you are nothing but a ni#&*er. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Some of you don’t even consider yourselves immigrants. Whether you were born here, worked here, naturalised here, married here, worked here or retired here, as long as you are black you are nothing but an immigrant. So, stop moaning when the Polish and Romanians come over. They have more of a stake in this country than you will ever have (unless you can do a skin transplant). When you are a good black like Shaun Bailey, Trevor McDonald and Baroness Patricia Scotland, you are British, but once you deviate for the straight and narrow path, you become either a British born of Nigerian heritage or a Zimbabwean born Briton. Wake up and smell the coffee.
As explained earlier, you are just one crime away from being “De Britished.” But I am not a terrorist or a child molester, you may argue? There is a thin line in deciding what is “not conducive for the public good” What would be the trigger point: A traffic offence, failure to pay tax, accounting fraud, arrest during a protest, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, children truancy or any other misdemeanour? So, stop deluding yourself. As Ms Begum’s case demonstrates, you are not really British, and you can’t be more British than the British. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA