Brendan O’Neill

The shame of those siding with Shamima Begum | 20 February 2019

The shame of those siding with Shamima Begum | 20 February 2019
Text settings

At last, having kept pretty shtum about it for the past few years, the virtue-signalling set has mustered up some sympathy for women caught up in the horrific Isis vortex. 

Unfortunately, though, their sympathy isn’t for the Yazidi women who were burned alive after refusing to become sex slaves for Isis jihadists. Or the Kurdish women who found themselves living under the brutal misogynistic yoke of the Isis empire. Or the Syrian and Iraqi women whose husbands and sons were beheaded for adhering to the wrong branch of Islam. No, their sympathy is for a woman who supported the movement that did all those things. Who provided moral succour to the Isis barbarians. Who rejected her nation, her community and her family to throw her lot in with the Islamist death cult that gleefully slaughtered women and girls, including here in the UK.

Yes, they are sympathising with Shamima Begum. The 19-year-old Isis supporter. The woman who says the mass murder at the Manchester Arena, one of whose victims was an eight-year-old girl, was ‘retaliation’ for Western attacks on Isis and was justifiable on that basis. The woman who said she wasn’t fazed by the sight of severed heads in dustbins because the people who those heads belonged to had sinned against Islam and therefore deserved to die. The woman who stayed in Raqqa, and said it was a good place to live, even as the rulers of Raqqa were enslaving Yazidi women, putting dissenters’ heads on spikes, and executing barbaric attacks everywhere from Mosul to Nice to London Bridge. That woman — that’s the one they feel compassion for.

Actual compassion too. Treat Begum ‘with compassion’, says a Guardian headline. Across the broadsheet media and in leftish political circles, Begum is being talked up as a victim. She’s the real victim, apparently, not the thousands who were butchered by the movement she willingly joined and happily stayed with. Her family lawyer openly describes her as a ‘victim’. Commentators say she is a victim of grooming. Apparently she was brainwashed online at the age of 15 and therefore cannot be held fully responsible for her actions. What, even when she turned 18? And stayed with this barbaric movement that was enforcing seventh-century authoritarianism against its own adherents and unleashing bloodshed against the citizens of numerous nations?

I’ve been worried about the moral compass of the chattering classes for a while now. These are people who will destroy individuals who commit minor speech-based transgressions — for example by ‘misgendering’ a trans person — and yet who refuse to pass firm moral judgement against genuine evil, like the massacre at Charlie Hebdo or the sight of British-born Muslims trekking thousands of miles to join a neo-fascistic religious outfit. But even I have been taken aback by the sympathy for Begum. It points to a complete unanchoring of sections of the opinion-forming set from any sense of morality. They seem more exercised by the alleged plight of a female Isis supporter than they ever were by the genuine, historically horrific plight of the uncountable females who were mistreated, enslaved or killed by Isis.

None of the claims being made about Begum add up. Groomed? She actively sought out Isis. A victim? She was a grade-A student who meticulously planned and executed her escape to the Islamic State’s deranged caliphate. A child? She’s 19 now and she still isn’t that bothered by the removal of people’s heads or the massacre of British citizens. Strikingly, though, she is a dab hand at the cult of victimhood. People should show me sympathy for what I’ve been through, she says. My jaunt with Isis has made me stronger, she insists, as if she had merely been on a gap year or a reality TV show or something. She is cleverly exploiting a culture that she knows full well exists in modern Britain: a culture of reluctance when it comes to criticising hardcore Islamists too harshly and a tendency to feel a cloying, racially-tinged pity for any Muslim who falls in with ‘bad’ people. Begum is tapping into and seeking to utilise the UK cultural elite’s caginess about condemning Islamic extremism, and this is likely to reap benefits for her.

This is not to say Sajid Javid is right to revoke Begum’s citizenship. That is a rash and illiberal move that could set a dangerous precedent. Even worse, it seems driven by political cowardice, by a desire to push people like Begum, and actual British fighters for Isis, out of sight and out of mind. Indeed, both the sympathisers with Begum and the Home Office that has revoked her citizenship seem driven by an unwillingness to confront the seriousness of the situation at hand: the fact that hundreds of Muslim Britons betrayed their nation in the most grotesque way imaginable and the possibility that this tells us something very important, and deeply concerning, about the ideology of multiculturalism that currently governs our nation. Begum shouldn’t be shown compassion or denuded of her citizenship — she should be brought back and tried as a traitor to the British people.