Shamima Begum: On Returning Islamic Fighters

Shamima Begum: On Returning Islamic Fighters February 18, 2019

Anyone in the UK knows about the latest piece of divisive news (as in, everyone has an opinion, and they appear neatly split in two): Shamima Begum, a “Jihadi bride”, who left the UK to join ISIS as a bride when she was fifteen, has just had a baby in a Syrian camp and wants to return home.

As she said to a Sky News on Sunday: “I was hoping that maybe for the sake of me and my child they let me come back. Because I can’t live in this camp forever. It’s not really possible.”

The Guardian reports:

It emerged on Sunday that Begum has named the child Jarah after one of the two children she has lost since November 2018.

Which makes you wonder about the other living child and itss whereabouts.

The Home Secretary (Sajid Javid) wants to block her return as do many people.

As ever, there are many good arguments on either side of this. Her leaving was a famous deal: three fifteen-year-old schoolgirls bunked off school and did a runner to ISIS. Now, four years later, one has died, one is happy to remain, and one is appealing to the better to the better nature of the UK public in wanting to return to bring up her child.

I understand the initial reaction (I felt it too) of saying, “No way! You made your bed, now lie in it!”

Arguments for blocking her

The obvious starter is that she arguably poses a security threat;  it would be something akin to negotiating with terrorists, or giving in to their desires.

When she left in 2015 to marry a converted Islamic fighter from the Netherlands:

…she was aware of beheadings and executions being carried out by the extremists but she was “okay with it”, because she had heard “Islamically that is allowed”. [source]

At the sub-adult age of fifteen, she still clearly showed agency and understanding. She knew about and eventually saw evidence of beheadings, and was still okay about it.

Indeed, Javid has stated in the Sunday Times:

As home secretary, my priority is to ensure the safety and security of this country — and I will not let anything jeopardise that. These are not judgments to be taken based purely on emotion and empathy. We look at the facts of each case, the law and the threat to national security.

Begum was a child when she left, but she is now nineteen and an adult with the full range of moral responsibilities and accountability ascribed to her by UK society. As such, using the “only a child” argument is somewhat moot.


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