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Shemima Begum

Should Britain forgive her?


Where’s the outrage over a national broadcaster hosting a once proud member of a “fascistic death cult”, wonders Brendan O’Neill in Spiked. That’s what happened on Wednesday, when Good Morning Britain interviewed Shamima Begum from the Kurdish-run refugee camp in Syria that she has lived in since being stripped of her UK citizenship in 2019. She repents, she says, after running off to join Isis as a 15-year-old east London schoolgirl, then sticking around while they “enslaved Yazidi women, slaughtered Christians, executed homosexuals” and instigated barbarous attacks in Paris, Barcelona, Manchester and elsewhere. Here was Ms Begum, who a few years ago was devoting herself to the most “extremist, hateful, intolerant movement on Earth”, chatting away with Richard Madeley, and “there wasn’t a peep of protest from the woke”. Instead, there were expressions of sympathy.

She’s a “plausible young woman”, says Melanie McDonagh in the Telegraph. Offering to help combat the radicalisation of “dumb” young people like her, saying she would rather die than sign up for IS again. It’s easy to feel compassion for a mother of three dead children, “apparently remorseful” and to all appearances a changed and more sympathetic young woman. But the rumours about what she did in Syria are alarming. She is said to have worked in the IS “morality police”, brutally enforcing their draconian code of behaviour. There are claims she helped sew volunteers into suicide belts so they couldn’t take them off without exploding. Former home secretary Sajid Javid says that, given the secret files he has seen, he wouldn’t dream of letting her back into the country. I think she should come home, not as a victim, but as one accused of playing along in “the worst atrocities of our time”. Feel compassion for her, sure. “But let her face justice first.”

Begum is hardly the first member of Isis to change their mind, says Chris Stevenson in The Independent. Like others, she claims she was “groomed and taken advantage of and manipulated”. Whether or not that’s true, she should be brought home and tried over the accusations made against her. The government is doing itself no favours by stoking the narrative that Begum is being “hounded by authorities” who care little for her predicament. Boris Johnson is “hardline on crime”. Shouldn’t that mean making people “face the consequences of their actions”?

She was a “stupid, misguided 15-year-old”, says Ayesha Hazarika in the Evening Standard, but we need her “to stop the next Shamima”. We need her to explain why she and her friends were seduced by this death cult ideology. We need to know how young people from moderate Muslim families can get sucked into this vile, frightening world. Especially now, when the Taliban is back and recruitment will be redoubling in teenage bedrooms across Britain. Begum was born, bred and groomed here. She is our problem. “A difficult drop of mercy could go a long way.”