Stop sobbing over Shamima

The idea that Shamima Begum is a victim of British racism is a complete inversion of the moral reality.

Brendan O'Neill
Topics Politics UK

The campaign to transform Shamima Begum into a victim, into an object of sympathy, is surely one of the most grotesque spectacles in British public life right now. This is a young woman who betrayed Britain. Who betrayed her fellow citizens. Who turned her back on the freedoms and comforts afforded to her by life in 21st-century London in favour of going to live in an Islamist supremacist death cult that enslaved Yazidi women, executed infidels, and obliterated any semblance of freedom of conscience in the territories it governed between 2013 and 2019. That sections of the political and media elite in the UK view Begum as a victim, as a woman wronged by Britain’s allegedly racist establishment, confirms how thoroughly they have lost the moral plot.

The latest development in the perverse effort to rebrand Begum as a victim of Britain rather than as a traitor to Britain came at the weekend when it was reported that another Briton who defected to ISIS, Jack Letts, hasn’t been stripped of his citizenship, as Begum has been. The difference between these two people? Begum is a brown-skinned Muslim from Bethnal Green who fled Britain with two Muslim friends in February 2015 to throw her lot in with the barbaric caliphate based in Raqqa. Letts, in contrast, is the white, middle-class son of a professional couple based in Oxford. He travelled to Syria in 2014, allegedly to become an ISIS fighter. He came to be known as ‘Jihadi Jack’ after a photo was published in 2015 showing him giving the one-finger salute associated with ISIS in front of the Mosul Dam – Mosul was then under ISIS rule. At the end of last week, Letts’ parents were found guilty of funding terrorism, for sending Jack £223 when he was in Syria, and this ruling has shone a light on the Begum / Letts contradictions, we are told.

Why the differential treatment? Because Britain is racist, commentators claim. The Begum family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, thinks racism is a factor, too. Continuing his ridiculous attempt to paint Shamima as some kind of injured party in the story of her defection from the UK into the barbarous arms of the slave-holding, Christian-massacring, child-murdering ISIS caliphate, Akunjee says the double standards in relation to Begum and Letts confirm that ‘Sajid Javid used the Shamima Begum scenario to boost his political chances’. Whether the differential treatment of Begum and Letts is down to Javid’s ‘private political ambitions’ or the UK’s ‘overt racism’ is hard to say, says Akunjee – but ‘it doesn’t look good whichever one it is’.

There is something almost unhinged about this lawyer’s attempt to present the daughter of the family he represents as a victim of racism. This is a woman who willingly joined a movement that was genuinely, horrifically supremacist in its outlook. Which treated Yazidi people like animals, enslaving their women and, in the case of one German ‘ISIS bride’, leaving a five-year-old Yazidi slave to die in the scorching heat. Shamima joined a movement that threw homosexuals from buildings, which beheaded Christians, which destroyed the religious buildings of any group that didn’t slavishly accept its ruthless brand of Islam, and which of course slaughtered hundreds of men, women and children in Europe for the ‘crimes’ of attending pop concerts, shopping at Christmas markets, and taking part in a Bastille Day celebration. To try to drum up sympathy for a young woman who joined such a backward, hateful, profoundly prejudiced and borderline fascistic movement on the basis that it is the young woman herself who is the real victim of prejudice feels almost sordid.

And yet Akunjee does this presumably because he knows it will make a connection with a certain section of British society – the left-leaning sections of the political elite and the PC chattering classes. For the past few months these people have propagated the myth of Shamima as a victim of Britain. They say Britain let her down by failing to safeguard her when she was a 15-year-old and was, in their words, being ‘groomed’ online by ISIS recruiters. They say the British authorities were wrong to revoke Shamima’s British citizenship, as Javid did in February. And they say she has been treated in a racist way, as revealed by the apparently more lenient approach to the white Letts. Akunjee seems to be trying to play into the cultural elite’s mad and immoral sympathy for Shamima, unaware, or perhaps simply not caring, that the majority of people in the rest of the country will take entirely the opposite view – that Shamima is a traitor and an extremist and she deserves her fate in a prison camp in northern Syria.

Not surprisingly, the claims of racist differential treatment between Begum and Letts don’t add up. The trump card of the sympathy-for-Shamima lobby is that Letts has actual dual citizenship – of Canada and the UK – whereas Begum’s right to dual citizenship, of Bangladesh and the UK, was exaggerated by Javid and the Home Office. She has never visited Bangladesh and Bangladesh wants nothing to do with her.

And yet, if anything, this aspect of the story undermines the overblown claims that Shamima is a victim of racism. It seems that one reason the UK authorities did not rush to revoke Letts’ UK citizenship is precisely because they are in talks with Canada to send him there and they did not want to disrupt that process. It has been made clear to Letts, as it has been to other ISIS fighters from the UK, that he is not welcome back in Britain. Canada takes a different approach and there are reportedly advanced talks to have Letts extradited to Canada. What’s more, there are other British ISIS fighters who, like Shamima, are non-white and they haven’t had their citizenship revoked yet, for various reasons. An estimated 900 British citizens went to join ISIS over the past seven years, but up to the end of 2017 only around 130 of them had been stripped off their citizenship. Of course many will have died and some will be unaccounted for, but others haven’t formally been stripped off their citizenship for technical or political reasons. The idea that the British authorities stripped Shamima of her citizenship because she has brown skin is so ridiculous only the woke could believe it.

The sympathy-for-Shamima movement in certain political circles confirms how morally unanchored the PC set has become. These are the kind of people who describe anyone to the right of Ken Clarke as a fascist, and yet they then weep tears of sympathy for a young woman who literally went to join a movement so extreme and intolerant that it beheads its critics and slaughters dissenters. These political players have become so disconnected from reason and morality that they cannot even bring themselves fully to condemn ISIS. So in the case of British society versus a young woman who betrayed British society to join a murderous religious movement that was slaughtering British citizens, they view British society as prejudiced and the young woman as the victim – a total and complete inversion of moral reality. They really ought to save their tears for the people who were brutalised, enslaved, executed and massacred by the movement that their latest poster girl for the politics of victimhood ran away to join.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Gerard Barry

1st July 2019 at 1:34 pm

Watching this girl talking about she “wasn’t fazed at all” at the sight of heads of corpses separated from their bodies during her time with ISIS while in the same breath saying she expected “more sympathy” from the British government or public (I forget which), did not regret her decision to leave the UK for Syria and, yet, wanted to be allowed back to the UK was truly chilling and showed that the girl has no remorse whatsoever for her actions.

Rachel Brett

26th June 2019 at 10:23 am

I am someone who takes the law very seriously as it distinguishes us from those who don’t adhere to it at all. I may not like its outcomes but I do think we have to be honest here.

I am not in favour of having Shamima Begum back into this country for selfish reasons as well as monetary ones, but actually I think on balance we should be having these fighters stand trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity, because that is the right thing to do.

They need to stand trial, for their crimes. I don’t care whether they were brainwashed, bushwashed or any kind of washed, anyone in their right mind, doesn’t go and kill everyone who doesn’t fit in with their point of view. That is the very essence of fascism, and Shamima Bagum is a fascist of the Isis state, as it Jihadi Jack.

We should as a country along with all countries be pushing for the Hague or International Court of Justice to deal with these individuals to make a statement that terrorism doesn’t pay, (in fact terrorism has never paid to be honest – can you think of any time that it has) and that they should be incarcerated or even executed for the crimes they have committed.

Citizenship be damned.

Jerry Owen

25th June 2019 at 10:09 am

I wrote to my ( Tory ) MP months ago when it looked like she was going to be allowed back here in the UK. He gave me the usual platitudes and non committal answers worthy of an MP, however he did make the point that UK citizens cannot be made stateless ( joining IS I would argue does just that ) . I expect that sadly in time she will be allowed to return to the UK thus giving a green light to further Islamic atrocities both here and abroad.

Stephen Cox

28th June 2019 at 5:51 pm

As the initials ISIS stand for Islamic STATE in Syria surely she has a state and by leaving the UK to join ISIS she is now their citizen not ours. Just because they didn’t issue her with a passport is neither here nor there.

If she wants to re-apply for British Citizenship then I’m sure the home secretary will review her case as he would any other applicant to join and receive the benefits of our society.

In Negative

24th June 2019 at 7:34 pm

I bet I’ve just violated the TOS… Right here on my first post…


Bet Frank Furedi was up all night coding this!

Sheikh Anvakh

24th June 2019 at 7:03 pm

ISIS “borderline” fascistic? You jest sir, you jest? Full blown 100% rabid fascists, surely.

Neil Gibbs

24th June 2019 at 6:15 pm

What does it say about our country that this disgusting human being is being defended by supposedly intelligent people merely to promote their one eyed worldview.It is a well worn phrase that only intelligent people can be so stupid.
The horrific deaths of countless people matter not a jot to these imbeciles who cannot tell right from wrong even though it is smacking them around the face.
If you don’t accept this woman is the dregs of society you are the one that needs help.She is unrepentant and would take the same actions tomorrow if her murdering death cult were still in combat.
Accept the fact that genuine evil exists and Begum is the personification of it !

James Chilton

24th June 2019 at 3:23 pm

It’s virtually useless to complain about the transformation of Shamima Begum from renegade to victim. No one has lost the “moral plot”: there is no moral plot in Britain now.

Pernille Dahl Johnsen

24th June 2019 at 3:14 pm

Greetings from Norway!

“(…) a total and complete inversion of moral reality.” Exactly. And this inversion is happening just about everywhere these days, in my estimate. Here in Norway, too.

Thank heavens for Brendan O’Neill, my solace in these hard and frightening (but interesting, too) times.

Anthony Thompson

24th June 2019 at 1:45 pm

Maybe Tom Jones can redo his old song as ‘My My My Shamima’

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 1:31 pm

A Brendan O’Neill rant without him mention the chattering classes.

What’s wrong Brendan?

Robert Brandywine

24th June 2019 at 1:58 pm

Paragraph 5, first sentence.

gershwin gentile

24th June 2019 at 2:03 pm

You don’t expect DR to actually READ the article, do you? He might then realize nothing he posts is relevant.

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 3:24 pm

lol I missed it.

He says it so many times it’s hard to notice.

Jerry Owen

25th June 2019 at 7:59 am

So you didn’t read the article then !

christopher barnard

24th June 2019 at 12:49 pm

At least the liberal and progressive classes are showing concern for this young woman.

That’s more than they ever did for those abused in Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere, and for Muslim young women in the UK who suffer oppression by those close to them.

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 1:33 pm

This is why we need tommy eh?

Jerry Owen

25th June 2019 at 8:01 am

It’s not ‘ever did’ . Unfortunately it’s ‘ still don’t’.

Robert Spowart

24th June 2019 at 12:00 pm

Here’s a question I’d love to see answered.
“What is it about Islam that has led to it, alone of the non-British Religions, having it’s own personal “~ophobia”?
After all, Sikhophobia, Buddhistophobia, Hinduophobia, Jainophobia etc are conspicuous by their absence and generally the followers of those religions have become a part of British Society in a way that Islam has never even tried to emulate.
Why is that?

Could it be that individual followers of those religions do not have a tendency to blow themselves up in pop concerts? Nor, generally speaking, do they take part in the gang organised rape, sexual exploitation & trafficking of young girls.

Islamophiles sould also take their blinkers off and take a broader, world wide look at the actions of Islamists in the wider world.
The murder and mutilation of concert goers at The Bataclan or the recent bombings in Sri Lanka for example.
How about commenting on the the continuing slaughter of Christians by Islamists in many parts of Africa, largely ignored by Western media.

James Hillier

24th June 2019 at 11:16 am

I have little sympathy for Shamima Begum. And I do not think she is a victim of racism. She was unfortunate enough to tell her story to The Times. The relatively sympathetic coverage in that newspaper provoked public revulsion. Sajid Javid, trying to position himself as a potential future Prime Minister, and playing a very difficult hand, having been presented this case as the first-ever Muslim Home Secretary, reacted to this revulsion by revoking Ms Begum’s citizenship.

I do not think that was the right decision. Britain should take these people back and then put them on trial, unless there is another jurisdiction with greater claim to them and the ability to try them properly, and then impose the appropriate punishment. Leaving at liberty often unrepentant jihadis, who know us and could infiltrate us in the future, is an insanely dangerous policy. Unpopular as it will be to say so, I also think that punishment without trial is wrong. We exiled Ms Begum without trial. Exile is a punishment.

But the idea that Ms Begum is a victim of racism is grotesque. Isis released the video of its torturers burning to death the Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh on 3 February 2015. Ms Begum ran off to join Isis at the end of February 2015; less than three weeks after the release of that footage. She knew what kind of organisation she was joining. And yet somehow she’s the victim?

And if Isis had achieved its fantastical goal of conquering the West, how would Ms Begum now be treating us? That’s not an argument for denying her human rights or her rights as a citizen. But it is an argument for being less sentimental, dewy-eyed and naive.

Steve Roberts

24th June 2019 at 6:06 pm

James Hillier, i believe you write in good faith and your desire to see justice done, for a trial, to not sink to the illiberal backward level of those that want to murder us all, appears morally correct and superior to ISIS.
However it is deeply flawed , in addition there are already hundreds of unrepentant returned jihadists living amongst us again because of a failure of those in power to take a firm moral position and deal with these people including Begum.
Trial by jury as we understand it, the best chance we have at the moment for justice to take place, takes place within a set of social and judicial circumstances that are historically understood and the abided by lawfully, with the case of these jihadists it is an almost impossibility for these circumstances to be adhered to that could satisfy the criteria of justice been seen to be done.
Evidence is almost impossible to collect , challenge and authenticate, the “crimes” themselves are unlikely to be covered by any law covered by precedence etc, there is a huge list of unacceptable circumstances, we all know this, so what is to be done?
What needs to be done is to take a moral stand, these people have exiled themselves, joined an army committed to murdering us all, they are our self avowed – not in words but actions – enemies.
They have no place in our society, they decided this and must accept the consequences, these are not criminals as we understand those that infringe acceptable behaviour or actions, they have declared war against us, this is qualitatively different, we would have no qualms if they were killed in battle so why the moral prevarication now ?
The only question for me is effectively whether we find it acceptable for the executive to take the action it has without us been consulted and if we can morally accept that we would be taking action against the jihadists retrospectively as what may happen to them now was not the law or acceptable procedure at the time they exiled themselves.
Short answer ? Needs must, moral backbone required to protect citizens against a death cult murdering our people on these shores. The question of executive power is a grey area , but frankly the executive does take action at times without consultation and while this should be absolutely minimised, and we ought to be consulted to determine our political power in these cases , as i said, needs must.

Paul Cat

24th June 2019 at 11:00 am

There’s another interesting comparison to be made, Brendan. You write, “They say Britain let her down by failing to safeguard her when she was a 15-year-old and was, in their words, being ‘groomed’ online by ISIS recruiters.”
And yet, last week, two young fascist nutters (I think you’ll allow the F-word here) were convicted of belonging to the far-right group Sonnemkrieg group. Michal Szewczuk and Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski are 18 and 19 years old. and what age was Dunn-Koczorowski when he joined National Action, the forerunner to Sonnenkrieg? Yep, 15. And if we compare the crimes of ISIS with those of Sonnenkrieg, I think we might see that the latter are lagging far, far behind. Why is no-one in The Guardian and elsewhere calling for the poor lamb to be treated as a victim of child abuse? I think this double-standard is connected more to sexism than to racism; maybe the liberal press do still believe that women are the weaker sex. Maybe they believe that women can’t make up their own minds. Maybe they believe that women need protection (I hope I don’t need to point out here that these two young men are vile and deserve no sympathy. I hope I don’t need to point out that fascism is bad.)

gershwin gentile

24th June 2019 at 11:29 am

Owning a vagina means never having to say sorry… or explain.

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 1:34 pm

Right so you mean if a white girl had run away to join a white supremacist Nazi group nobody would hold her to account?

gershwin gentile

24th June 2019 at 2:01 pm

Why oh why can Danny Rees never make a valid point?

Margaret Potter

28th June 2019 at 7:42 pm

Now now Gershwin let’s have sensible debate or are you a misogynist. As a vagina card holder I totally agree with Javid definitely NO ENTRY to UK

Robert Spowart

24th June 2019 at 11:55 am

More or less my thoughts when I read about the case. A pair of fantasising idiots who’d have been better served by a kick up the arse and a better education.
Note, EDUCATION , not the politically correct Common Purpose inspired heap of shonet that passes for it nowadays.

Neil McCaughan

24th June 2019 at 10:56 am

At last, the Labour Party, liberals and feminists have found an instance of “grooming” and abusing a young girl they object to. One, out of thousands. Usually it’s something they’re very comfortable with. I wonder what makes this different?

Colonel Babylon

24th June 2019 at 8:51 am

Shamima Begum was born in England and has every right to return home.

Stephen J

24th June 2019 at 10:04 am

She emigrated Colonel, she has no right to return to her former home.

Neil McCaughan

24th June 2019 at 1:24 pm

I was born in a hospital. That doesn’t make me a doctor.

Stephen J

24th June 2019 at 8:10 am

Nice piece Brendan, but I would argue that fascism is a left wing concept. State power combined with local giants of commerce, conspiring with each other to enslave the workers.

Now where have i seen that before?

gershwin gentile

24th June 2019 at 12:37 pm

You confuse little f fascism (a movement) and big F Fascism (“Corporationism”)

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 3:25 pm

Do you Brendan is left wing and objects to being called right wing but he’s always in the right wing rag The Sun droning on about the left, pc and snowflakes.

Jody Taylor

24th June 2019 at 7:29 am

First world problem.

Colonel Babylon

24th June 2019 at 6:02 am

Shamima Begum is a cultural monster created by the likes of Yvette Cooper MP and Jo Cox.

Danny Rees

24th June 2019 at 1:33 pm

Your name is hilarious

Jerry Owen

25th June 2019 at 3:03 pm

Your posts unfortunately are just tedious.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.