Shamima Begum is not a victim
It is absurd to feel sorry for someone who betrayed her country to join a death cult.
So the saga of ISIS jihadi bride Shamima Begum rolls on.
In the latest instalment, Begum’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, issued home secretary Sajid Javid with a 16-page letter in which he accuses the British authorities of ‘failing’ to protect Shamima from being ‘groomed for exploitation and trafficked internationally’ by the Islamic State.
Akunjee describes Javid’s revocation of Begum’s British citizenship as ‘the most profoundly egregious, capricious and politically driven abuse of power’. He advances the view that this decision was ultimately designed to further Javid’s own personal political objective of becoming prime minister.
As well as going after the home secretary and police, Akunjee criticises Tower Hamlets Council for failing to launch a serious case review – which is what is usually conducted when a child has been abused and suffered serious harm.
The letter typifies the tactic often deployed by those who offer support for religious extremists – the ‘externalisation of blame’. When people are radicalised, blame is firmly placed at the door of the authorities who should have done more to ‘prevent’ radicalisation. Ironically, Akunjee has in the past been scathing of the government’s terrorism-prevention programme, Prevent.
But I suspect many will take issue with how the letter shamelessly paints Begum as a helpless victim, and the way it seeks to dismiss the idea that she had any agency.
When Begum left the UK for Syria, she was 15 years old – five years above the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales. And ironically, she was slightly below the age that many of the chattering-class leftists who use her youthfulness as a defence want to lower the voting age to.
There are plenty of British Muslim teenage girls who would bat away the advances of extremists. Stripping all agency from this young woman is demeaning to those who are intent on maximising their potential, aspire to contribute to our society, and would reject extremist advances in a heartbeat. They want to make their families proud. Shamima, on the other hand, lied to her family about going on a day out before heading off to join a bloodthirsty death cult.
Akunjee, who is bending over backwards to absolve his client of all responsibility in a desperate attempt to drum up public support for her, has in fact done Begum no favours. His absurd letter has only shed light on who the real victims are in all this.
There are accounts which suggest that Begum may have acted as a member of the Islamic State ‘morality police’, enforcing the Islamist terrorist group’s strict rules on matters such as dress codes for women. Evidently a dab hand when it comes to textiles, she apparently helped to stitch suicide vests for ISIS jihadists.
We should tread very carefully when employing terms of victimhood to individuals who have joined barbaric terrorist organisations that have committed the most heinous of atrocities.
The Yazidi religious minority has endured untold suffering and misery at the hands of Islamic State. Indeed, the United Nations argues that ISIS seriously attempted to wipe out the Yazidi population – an act of genocide.
Countless Yazidi men were brutally murdered and dumped into mass graves. Women were stripped of all dignity and raped. Some were forced into sexual slavery and driven into Islamic marriages with jihadists against their will. Many Yazidi mothers and their children were bought and sold like cattle, forced into being servants for members of the Islamic State.
Presenting Begum as a victim of grooming and trafficking in this context is beyond shameful – a grave insult to all the women who have been physically and mentally abused under Islamic State’s brutally oppressive regime of involuntary servitude and sexual enslavement.
Akunjee’s strongest hand has always been the legal one. He is trying to argue that the revocation of Begum’s British citizenship was unlawful, and he is criticising Javid’s questionable attempts to shift Begum on to her parents’ home country of Bangladesh – a country she has never set foot in.
But by getting into a political scrap and taking personal shots at the home secretary, attacking a range of authorities, and presenting someone who joined Islamic State as a victim of grooming, trafficking and exploitation, he has further undermined his own credibility and somehow managed to worsen public perceptions of Begum in the process. A spectacular own-goal indeed.
It is absurd to feel sorry for someone who turned their back on our country by joining a genocidal terrorist organisation intent on destroying Western civilisation. And no, age is not a defence here. By accepting it as a defence, we do a grave disservice to those young people who may share Begum’s religious background but, unlike her, reject extremism in all its forms and appreciate the benefits of being born and raised in the UK.
Dr Rakib Ehsan is a spiked columnist and a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on twitter: @rakibehsan
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