Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The twisted logic of Shamima Begum’s defenders

(Photo by Laura Lean – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Shamima Begum is back in the news. Firstly because she’s had a makeover. She can be seen on the front page of today’s Telegraph sporting long, flowing locks, trendy shades and Western clothing. Is Shamima the Islamist now aspiring to be Shamima the celeb? Perhaps she’s angling for her own reality TV show: The Real Housewives of Raqqa.

But the second reason she’s in the news is because the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor has expressed sympathy for her. He says she’s a victim of British racism. I really wish Sir Anish would stick to what he’s (very) good at — public art installations — and leave the Shamima business alone. Because his comments are risible.

They aren’t only factually wrong — they’re morally wrong, too.

Whether wittingly or unwittingly, Kapoor and Akunjee are granting Shamima moral authority

In a statement co-authored with Tasnime Akunjee, the Begum family’s lawyer, Kapoor rages against what he sees as Britain’s mistreatment of Ms Begum. He says that in revoking her citizenship, the UK has behaved like Soviet Russia. The Supreme Court decision at the end of February, which said the government was well within its rights to block Begum’s return to the UK, was ‘disgraceful’, Kapoor and Akunjee insist.

Their killer argument — or so they seem to think — is that Begum is being treated like this because she is brown-skinned. Had it been ‘white school girls’ who had run off to join the Islamic State, it would have been a very different story, they claim. There can be ‘no doubt’, the statement says, that ‘we would be demanding that no expense be spared and not a moment wasted’ in returning these poor white citizens back to their rightful home of the United Kingdom.

But the facts don’t back up this fantasy scenario.

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