This isn’t your home anymore, Shamima
Shamima Begum gave moral succour to mass murderers. Why would Britain want her back?
To see the staggering narcissism and sense of entitlement that exists among certain sections of British youth today, look no further than the comments made by Shamima Begum. This is the young woman from London who ran away to join ISIS. Who turned her back on liberal democracy in favour of life in a 7th-century Islamic caliphate. Who rejected Britain and ran into the arms of a vicious and backward movement that despises Britain and everything it stands for. Who turned her back on her family, her community and her nation and shacked up with a fundamentalist army that has massacred British citizens, whether by slitting their throats in the Syrian desert or killing their children with homemade bombs packed with nails and screws. And yet there is Ms Begum today, on the front page of The Times, saying she wants to come ‘home’. Well, I’m sorry Shamima – this isn’t your home anymore.
Her interview is like a distillation of all the worst traits of the identitarian sections of youthful society. There’s her blissful, haughty rejection of the idea that one’s choices and one’s behaviour might have consequences, as if you can go on a three-year jaunt in which you provide moral and wifely succour to a barbarian, anti-British movement and then come home again and avail of British society’s welfare and protections. Begum says she just wants to ‘come home and live quietly with my child’ (she is reportedly nine months pregnant) and she says she’s confident her and her child will be ‘taken care of’. There’s the casual, implicitly arrogant assumption that it is absolutely fine that she holds values that run directly, violently counter to British values. She says she has no regrets about joining ISIS and that the sight of severed human heads in dustbins ‘didn’t faze me at all’, seemingly unmoved by the fact that the vast majority of Britons will find such views morally and dangerously repellent.
And there’s the obsession with the self. All that Begum seems to talk about in her chat with The Times is herself and her friends and her child and her future. ‘Bring ME home’, the headline reads. What about the people killed by the army she ran away to? What about the citizens massacred by people like her husband, a Dutch jihadi? What about Alan Henning, the kindly British taxi driver beheaded by one of Begum’s fellow Brits who became an enemy combatant for ISIS (Jihadi John)? What about the eight-year-old girl murdered at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in the name of the religious cult Begum willingly joined? Nothing about them. Nada. In Begum’s enclosed, self-reflecting, morally warped universe, these people seem not to matter. Apparently she is the victim, not them. ‘Help me’, says this young woman who willingly joined a movement which happily ran a knife across the throats of any of its captives who likewise uttered those words, ‘Help me’. There isn’t a violin small enough to capture how most Britons will feel about Begum’s complaints.
Begum infamously left London with two of her friends in 2015. She was 15 years old at the time. One of her friends was also 15, the other 16. It is thought that one of them was killed by Russian bombing. Begum is now in a refugee camp in northern Syria and, in a brilliant journalistic scoop, The Times found her, photographed her, talked to her, and created today’s dramatic front page. Begum married a Dutch jihadi. She knew well that she would marry an ISIS fighter – that is precisely what she and her friends went to ISIS-ruled territory to do. She now tells The Times that she has no regrets about moving to ISIS’s brutal caliphate and was fine with seeing severed heads. Those heads belonged to ‘enem[ies] of Islam’ and therefore they didn’t ‘faze’ her, she chillingly says. As if those who dissent from Islamist doctrine deserve beheading. And then she says ‘bring me home’. The cognitive dissonance is extraordinary, bordering on pathological. Paraphrased: ‘I am okay with seeing the mutilated bodies of people who criticise Islam – now let me back into London.’
This cognitive dissonance – this simultaneous boasting about being unfazed by the severing of kafirs’ heads and pleading to be allowed back into Britain for a ‘quiet life’ – is actually very revealing. It speaks to what happens when people are brought up in a society as segmented and morally fractured as Britain currently is. That Begum thinks it perfectly natural that she can express no regret about siding with ISIS and call on Britain to bring her home and care for her tells us much about life under the ideology of multiculturalism. Modern Britain is a nation that refuses to state clearly what its values are, and which in fact celebrates being ‘multi-values’. All value systems are fine and none is superior to any other – that is the rallying cry of the multicultural era. As a consequence, Britain has become divided, disjointed, split into various, often conflicting communities and value systems. Many of the people brought up in this climate come to feel dislocated from any idea of Britishness, and from the British nation itself, and some start to embrace narrow, eccentric and even quite hostile value systems. And if you criticise this process? You’re an Islamophobe. This is the double-whammy illiberalism of the ideology of multiculturalism: it divides communities and then it clamps down on open, frank discussion about such worrying and sometimes dangerous division.
Indeed, the story of these three London girls who ran off in 2015 was always a very telling one. It contains lessons, if only we are willing to see them. Too many observers have focused on the girls’ youthfulness and the idea that they were ‘groomed’ or ‘brainwashed’ by online jihadists. Note how ‘radicalisation’ has become an entirely passive phrase – these girls, and other Brits, were ‘radicalised’, we are always told, as if they are unwitting dupes who were mentally poisoned by sinister internet-users in Mosul or Raqqa. In truth, the three girls were resourceful and bright. All were grade-A students. They thought their actions through, they planned them meticulously, and they executed them well. Far from being the passive victims of online radicalisation, the girls themselves sought to convince other young women to run away to ISIS territory. The focus on the ‘grooming’ of Western European youths by evil ISIS masterminds overlooks a more terrible reality: that some Western European youths, Muslim ones, actively sought out the ISIS life. And this tells us much about the growth of division, nihilism and anti-Westernism among youths in 21st-century Europe.
Britain should not go out of its way to bring Ms Begum home. She made her choices and she must live with the consequences. Of course, if she makes it back to the UK of her own volition, we should let her enter, and she should be dealt with either as an enemy combatant or as the ally of enemy combatants, depending on what her precise role was. She should be processed as such, subjected to investigation, and, if necessary, punishment. You cannot implicitly declare war on your own nation and then waltz back into that nation as you please. You cannot side with mass murderers and then live a quiet life. You cannot throw your lot in with the movement behind the massacre of Kurds and Iraqis and Parisians and Mancunians and just go back to your old London existence. That isn’t how life works. And the sooner Ms Begum and every other British backer of ISIS realise this, the better.