Of all the points made on the case of Shamima Begum, the most relevant has been utterly absent. That is, who might actually be responsible for this appalling young woman being who she is and where she is.
In recent days the government’s own extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, has made an uncommon set of interventions. In each of these she has insisted that Begum must return to the UK and that not doing so will ‘play into the hands of the extremists’. Some of us are becoming a little jaded about the number of things said to risk ‘playing into the hands of extremists’. Over the last two decades one might easily have come to the conclusion that the only thing that doesn’t ‘play into the hands of the extremists’ is allowing the extremists to win.
Anyway, in her various interventions the usually admirable Khan has insisted that there are two aspects to the Begum case which must be addressed. The first is the internet. In The Sunday Times (in a piece headlined ‘If we abandon Shamima Begum we abandon our values too’) Khan claimed that Begum was ‘groomed and exploited by extremists in the unregulated and arguably irresponsible world of social media’. It was Shamima yesterday, but it could easily be any of us tomorrow. Throughout her piece Khan presents Begum as a poor victim of forces beyond her control. If only we in Britain had developed a better understanding of extremism, the government’s extremism commissioner dispassionately suggests, ‘perhaps Shamima would have never made that fateful journey.’
The second thing that Khan suggests we need is ‘a whole society response’ to extremism, including ‘cohesive and resilient communities’. Tackling this issue is apparently ‘a responsibility that falls on us all.’ A claim that is fascinatingly untrue. Because of course in fact there is absolutely nothing – zilch, nada, diddly-squat – that most people in Britain can do to stop Islamist extremism.