Exiling Shamima Begum undermines the British judicial system

Image by Charles D P Miller from Basingstoke, United Kingdom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently said in an interview with The Times, “If you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.” This approach is counterproductive and dangerous to the UK’s fight against radicalization and terrorism.

If we do not allow those, such as Shamima Begum, who have left their life in the UK to commit terroristic acts to return to face the full consequences of their actions, we are effectively deciding to pawn off our radicalized citizens to other countries that are ill-equipped to cope with those that have been radicalized, meaning that dangerous terrorists are left to roam the streets to commit further atrocities. In doing so, we are losing any opportunity we may have to deradicalize these people; this undermines our legal system.

With the news that Shamima Begum has given birth, revoking her British citizenship would have the knock-on effect of exposing her child to radicalisation, and the potential for physical and mental harm.

Revoking the citizenship of those who commit heinous acts desolidifies the concept of British citizenship. By not guaranteeing the future citizenship of those who have legally obtained it, we are saying that British citizenship is a fluid concept, with the potential for any British citizen to be subject to exile. This sets a dangerous precedent, that could, in the future, be used by any government-of-the-day to kick out those with whom it does not agree.

Doing so also fails to take in to account any responsibility of the United Kingdom for the prevention of radicalization of its citizens. Shamima Begum was radicalized on UK soil, in a UK school. To revoke her citizenship would be to absolve UK authorities of their responsibility to prevent the radicalization of its citizens, as they can simply revoke their citizenship status in the future, dumping the problem somewhere else.

Another option available to the government is to issue a Temporary Exclusion Order to Begum, preventing her return dependent on conditions imposed. By erecting obstacles to Begum’s return, the UK government runs the risk of exposing her, her child, and innocent people who come in to contact with Begum to further radicalization, and potential harm. Instead, Ms. Begum’s return should be encouraged, so that she can face the full consequences of her actions in accordance with UK law, and to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of her child.

From certain reports, Ms. Begum seems unrepentant for her actions. Whilst many may point to this as a reason to keep her out of the UK, I believe that this simply solidifies how important it is for her to return. By keeping someone with this mindset free in other countries, we are risking more lives and imposing danger on others, creating opportunities for Daesh to have a resurgence in popularity from those displaced.

Now or never: The use of torture must be stopped

As liberal democracies, there are many values that countries such as the UK and the USA are expected to uphold. What we consider to be basic rights and freedoms, such as the rule of law, civil rights, and political freedoms, are merely fantasy for many across the globe.

However, in recent history, we have seen that even so-called liberal democracies, such as as the United States, can toss the very same rights they claim to uphold out of the window using loopholes and by abusing their position as world superpowers. This can be seen within the last decade at Guantanamo Bay, where President Bush vetoed legislation banning the CIA from using torture, allowing them to carry out practises such as waterboarding unimpeded.

Torture is often portrayed as something that is necessary for the survival of the nation, or even democracy itself, in some popular media. Whilst watching 24, an action show from Fox, I was surprised to see how often torture was positively portrayed. Often, there would be a time-limited situation where evidence obtained by using ‘enhanced interrogation’, a euphemism for torture favoured even by President Bush’s administration, would be used to save the day from yet another terrorist.

But is there any truth in the effectiveness of torture?

The answer may surprise you.

According to respected academics in the field, such as Shane O’Mara, intelligence gained from torture is so unreliable that it’s often useless. People will often say whatever they think will make the torture stop.

So why is it portrayed as effective in some media? Could it be that the people behind shows such as 24 have a political agenda that they want us to subscribe to? I think it’s possible. It is important to remember that whilst our ‘all-American’ heroes such as 24’s Jack Bauer aren’t real, there are very real people, at multiple levels, making decisions behind the fictional actions he takes. This would appear to make sense, considering the airing of the original season of 24 coincided closely with the beginning of the War on Terror.

Could it be that these forms of entertainment are nothing more than jingoistic propaganda?

With recent news that torture is being carried out in ‘re-education camps’ in China’s Xinjiang province against Muslims, it’s more important than ever for countries to take a hard stance against its use.

With China fast becoming the next global superpower, there needs to be an effective and rigorous way to police the use of torture worldwide, with sanctions applied to those countries that support its use. As we have seen that even so-called liberal democracies will use torture, despite its unreliability and immorality, this needs to be an internationally co-ordinated effort.

If we don’t stamp out the use of this abhorrent practice now, we could see it on the rise sooner than you might think.

Language myths: Bilingualism rots the brain

Introduction

If you’ve got children, you’ll probably have been told that raising them bilingual will be a useful advantage, with the potential of facilitating many opportunities throughout life that monolinguals don’t have access to. However, this has not always been the accepted point of view. Throughout history, bilingualism has been historically seen as a handicap by the west, often akin to a mental handicap; many researchers claimed that being bilingual slowed the minds of children and that they would never be able to achieve the same level of intelligence as their monolingual counterparts (Kaplan, 2016). For the purposes of this report, ‘bilingualism’ and ‘multilingualism’ will both mean ‘a person who speaks several languages’, rather than the more restrictive ‘a person who speaks two languages’. This report seeks to debunk the myth that bilingualism has negative effects on intelligence levels in speakers.

A paradigm shift

So, why the shift in attitudes? How could bilingualism go from universal ridicule, with warnings of childhood retardation and split personalities, to something regarded as so important that UNESCO has said that bilingualism should be encouraged “at all levels of education” (UNESCO, 02 November 2001). The answer may lie in the definition of intellectualism. What may be considered an example of intelligence in one context, may be considered quite the opposite in a different context; as earlier studies on bilingualism’s effects on intelligence failed to take this in to account, they may have falsely attributed a lack of intelligence to bilingualism that may have been caused due to bias or a failing of the study itself (Hakuta and Suben, 1985).

It was not until the mid-twentieth century that this shift in attitudes towards the intelligence of bilinguals started to take place; a study by Elizabeth Peal and Wallace Lambert compared French-English bilinguals in Canada with monolinguals with a multitude of tests, and showed that the bilinguals scored higher on IQ tests than their monolingual counterparts (Grosjean, 2012). So, why the change? You’d be hard-pressed to find many reasonable academics or teachers that would claim that bilingualism is anything but an advantage. The change is due to the way the studies were realised, with failings to control for variables such as socioeconomic factors, including class (Kaplan, 2016). These variables were controlled in Peal and Lambert’s study (Kaplan, 2016).

Size of the lexicon

One interpretation of the definition of ‘intelligence’ within bilingual children is the rate of language acquisition; an assumption could be made that a more limited vocabulary is a symptom of low intelligence. A common thought is that bilinguals acquire language at a lower rate than monolinguals (Grosjean, 2012). However, as bilingual children begin the important language-acquisition-events, such as the ‘babbling’ process and first word process, amongst others, at the same time as their monolingual counterparts (Grosjean, 2012), this is clearly a misconception. This would seem in stark contrast to the notion of a lowered intelligence level.

This is not to say, however, that this is considered a universal truth amongst the academic community. Some studies have concluded that bilinguals control a smaller vocabulary in each respective language than monolinguals have in one language (Bialystok, 2009), but, whether it is appropriate to consider a more limited vocabulary as lower intelligence could be considered a matter of opinion. Despite this, most recent academic research would support the claim that bilingualism does not impede intelligence (Kaplan, 2016).

Bilingualism and its positive cognitive effects

It is undeniable that language and intelligence are closely linked. As language-speakers grow older, they may find that their cognitive functions begin to slow, word recollection starts to falter, and faster speech becomes increasingly unintelligible (Grosjean, 2012). However, according to recent studies, elderly bilingual speakers show a later onset of cognitive slowing associated with ageing, with multilingual speakers having the highest cognitive ability measured when compared against a group of monolingual speakers (Kavé et al., 2008). This would provide further evidence to put into doubt the findings of studies of the early twentieth century that stated that bilinguals have lower cognitive ability when compared with their monolingual counterparts.

Conclusion

In conclusion, from combining the failures by academics to implement proper control methods within their studies to control for socioeconomic and other external factors (Kaplan, 2016), with the fact that many American studies were influenced by heavy nationalistic and racial biases within researchers (Hakuta and Suben, 1985), and the fact that modern research shows evidence contrary to earlier studies – that bilinguals actually have a higher cognitive ability than monolinguals (Kavé et al., 2008), I find the notion that bilingualism can impede cognitive development to be largely fallacious, based mostly on failings and biases of researchers at the time.

References:

Bialystok, E. (2009) Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 12 (1), pp.3.

Grosjean, F. (2012) Bilingual: Life and Reality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hakuta, K. and Suben, J. (1985) Bilingualism and Cognitive Development. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. 6 (March 1985), pp.35.

Kaplan, A. (2016) Women talk more than men: And Other Myths about Language Explained. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kavé, G., Eyal, N., Shorek, A. and Cohen-Mansfield, J. (2008) Multilingualism and cognitive state in the oldest old. Psychology and Aging. 23 (1), pp.70.

UNESCO (02 November 2001) UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Available from: http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13179&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html [Accessed 04 November 2017].

Also published here: https://uwelingo.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/language-myths-bilingualism-rots-the-brain/