Let’s get real: Shamima Begum is a traitor

The treatment of Ms Begum as a victim – of groomers, of racist Tories – is perverse.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics UK

So, the Shamima Begum Welcome Committee can stand down. Those commentators and activists who devoted a bizarre amount of energy to depicting Ms Begum as a victim – of Islamo-groomers, of evil Tories, of good ol’ British racism – can put away their confetti and balloons. She isn’t coming home. The Supreme Court has ruled that it was well within the government’s rights to rescind Begum’s citizenship and block her from returning to the UK. The identitarians will have to find a new victim to rally behind, hopefully not one who was complicit in slavery, murderous homophobia and violent religious supremacy this time.

This was always the most striking and perverse aspect of the Begum controversy: the cultural elites’ sympathy for her. Their transformation of her into a victim. Their unwitting transference of moral authority to her through their treatment of her as a hapless casualty of online grooming and of Tory Islamophobia. This woman who willingly joined an Islamist death cult that was enslaving Yazidi women, beheading Christians and murdering children in Westerm countries was reimagined as a sad, sympathetic character whose cause – the reinstatement of her citizenship – all decent people should embrace. This Cult of Shamima, this sympathy for a supporter of supremacist mass murder, exposed the moral cowardice and political disarray of the contemporary cultural elites.

There were always two things going on in the Begum case. First there was the legal side, the question of whether it is right for the government to rip up someone’s citizenship. This discussion will no doubt continue. And it’s a tough one. Some will say that then home secretary Sajid Javid, who revoked Begum’s citizenship in 2019, and now the Supreme Court, are merely formalising a process that Begum herself set in motion – her betrayal of Britain, her abandonment of this nation in preference for shacking up with the sworn enemy of the UK and the broader Western world: ISIS. Surely it was Shamima herself who revoked her British citizenship when she joined a terror movement that was beheading Britons and was at war with our allies?

Others claim that officialdom’s ability to revoke someone’s citizenship is a power too far. The removal of Begum’s citizenship sets a dangerous precedent, they say. Shouldn’t the UK take responsibility for its citizens, rather than leaving them under the watch of the valiant but stressed Kurds? Do we not owe it to the victims of ISIS to put Ms Begum on trial, here, where we might discover the extent of her complicity in the Islamic State’s barbarism? I find myself somewhere in the middle of these two views. I think Begum did far more than Javid to trash her British citizenship when she swore her loyalty to an anti-Western death cult, but I also want restraints on the power of the state. Should a state really have the extraordinary authority to cast its own citizens into the global wilderness, paperless, homeless? I’m not sure it should.

But then there was the moral side of the discussion. Specifically the moral failure, or at least moral unwillingness, of significant sections of the media and cultural elites to recognise the gravity of Ms Begum’s crime. She is, to put it plainly, a traitor. She stabbed her country of birth in the back. She betrayed her family, her community and her society, and that is even before we get to the more complex question of how she assisted ISIS in its vile supremacist project, from its genocidal assault on the Yazidi people to its sectarian slaughter of kaffirs and dissenters. That some Labour politicians, broadsheet commentators and members of the Twitterati appear to have expressed more sympathy for Shamima Begum than they ever did for the Yazidi women brutalised by ISIS speaks to a deep moral discombobulation right here in 21st-century Britain.

The creepy sympathy for Shamima revealed so much about the moral relativism and identitarian confusions of today’s guardians of correct thinking. Their transformation of a traitor into a victim confirmed how little care they have for the idea of the nation, for the ideal of national integrity, and for the belief that citizens should show loyalty to the nations they belong to. Their claim that Begum has been ‘mistreated’ by the Tories because she is a Muslim – that is, she’s a victim of Islamophobia – exposed how obsessive their politics of victimhood has become. Victimology is their currency, their chief weapon, and they will happily present even a willing backer of an enslaving, terroristic movement as a victim if it assists their morally binary woke cause.

And their playing of the ‘Islamophobia’ card showed just how much their morality has been warped by the politics of identity. In their identitarian eyes, Begum must be a victim because she’s a Muslim. That’s where she fits on their chart. Their hyper-racial, morally juvenile Oppression Olympics means they can conceive of someone like Begum as nothing more or less than a victim. This is why they shed more tears over her alleged ‘grooming’ than they ever did over the real grooming of white working-class girls by mostly Pakistani gangs in various parts of England in recent years. Because they are guided by identity, not morality; by racial dogma, not genuine sensitivity to the problem at hand; by a twisted conviction that white people are privileged and Muslims are oppressed and that everything else flows from this unquestionable article of the identitarian faith.

Ms Begum will remain stuck in her camp in Syria. Many will think she is getting what she deserves, and getting off far more lightly than the uncountable victims of the barbaric movement she joined and celebrated. Closer to home, our politics will remain stuck in the idiocy and immorality of identitarianism unless we shake things up. An honest discussion about what Ms Begum represents, and about the broader threat posed by hateful, regressive radical Islamists, might be a good place to start.

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: YouTube.

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

Topics Politics UK


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today