I don’t know much at all about guns. I wouldn’t be able to name the weapons that the two policemen are holding just five feet away from me on this tube train. (I’m not even sure about the difference between feet and metres.) When I saw them I gave a start, partly because I’m not used to seeing such a sight but also because I’ve just been reading in The Guardian about the status of Shamima Begum, born just a few miles (or slightly more kilometres) away but now languishing in a refugee camp in Syria, so terrorism, state violence and my immunity from it (or otherwise) have been very much on my mind. If I continue on this train for one more stop I’ll reach Parliament, but I’m getting off at Waterloo, partly because I want to research the topic of citizenship and securitisation in the library of the university where I’m doing a module in Multilingualism, Migration and Diversity. The course tutor sent us an email this morning asking us to prepare for a seminar next month on that theme.
I don’t know whether Shamima Begum has ever handled a weapon, but I do know that she holds a British passport which is presently null and void. She has no other passports, and since the UK has no formal constitution if you don’t have a passport you’re not a citizen. The Home Secretary’s decision thus makes her stateless, which is illegal under international law. Strangely the focus of the Guardian article is not on the fact that the Home Secretary, whose parents migrated here from Pakistan, is attempting to break international law. Maybe if a previous government had respected international law there wouldn’t be a war in Syria and there wouldn’t be armed policemen on the tube. Just a thought.
We used to live in Rome, where armed soldiers were a common sight around metro and train stations. Those soldiers are now under the direction of the de facto leader of a coalition government of neofascists and internet trolls who is the same person who will next year be signing my Italian passport, unless someone reads this first and decides to turn me down because they don’t agree with my political opinions. (I’m not about to go to Syria to cut people’s heads off, but at the same time I don’t think it was wrong for George Orwell et al to take up arms against a previous generation of European fascists.) One purpose of getting an Italian passport was to remain an EU citizen in the wake of Brexit, but that may be moot in any case if Salvini’s cohorts take over the EU Parliament in May and destroy the EU from within. The prospect of the people in Westminster prolonging Article 50 to keep the UK in the EU temporarily is becoming less likely because the UK mustn’t be allowed to participate in those elections. This ungodly mess helps to explain why everyone is talking about the damage Shamima Begum might do to vital national interests instead of the incalculable harm our own government is doing to all of our life chances. Yesterday a friend whose wife is also Italian got a letter from their child’s nursery specifying that vouchers for 3 year old children of EU parents won’t yet be stripped and “any future changes will be in line with the future immigration system”, which is less than reassuring in that we know that our government will readily take away people’s most basic rights whenever doing so might stop people talking about what’s happening to the economy as a result of the ongoing civil war in the Conservative Party, a war which David Cameron decided to try to resolve once and for all by spreading it to the entire country.
Who radicalised Shamima Begum to the point where she didn’t even blink at the sight of a severed head and thought the motives and means behind the Manchester attack understandable? What sort of people seek to promote politically-inspired violence against defenceless civilians, including children? Surely whoever encouraged impressionable young women to join a war against their fellow Muslims and their country of birth must be identified and brought to justice as soon as possible…
Here’s a Martin Amis-style thought experiment: Could there be some sort of connection between her youthful indiscretion and the decision of our Government in 2003 to flout international law and take part in an illegal invasion which left hundreds of thousands of people dead, destabilised the entire region and created millions of refugees? Some very powerful people in the government and the media are determined that such questions not be asked in the rush to condemn and castigate such a perfect scapegoat. According to another article in today’s Guardian, today marks 50 years since Rupert Murdoch, who was born in Australia and also holds an American passport, took control of The Sun newspaper. I see this morning on Twitter that one of his protégées, Stig Abell, is applauding the Home Secretary’s decision. Abell was Editor-in-chief of The Sun when it published (that is to say, he published) a column by Katie Hopkins in which she called for boats full of refugees fleeing Isis to be bombed and advocated another “final solution”.
Now that’s pretty radical. Surely someone – the Home Secretary, perhaps – must be demanding that such an inhuman creature be brought to justice and his passport be removed? Er, no. He’s currently the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
I think I’ll stick with the LRB, thanks.