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Shamina Begum case – “We must also address what message we are sending to extremists”

15 FEBRUARY 2019

"Refusing her the right to return not only shows a failure of our values, but we must also address what message we are sending to extremists"

Sajda Mughal has spoken out about what she believes should happen to Shamima Begum, a young women who travelled to join ISIS. Much debate surrounds what should happen to British recruits who have joined ISIS and want to return, but Sajda is clear - we must work to follow due process in order to prosecute and work to rehabilitate. 


Read what Sajda has to say here.



Shamima Begum was one of the three schoolgirls who left the UK in 2015 to join the Islamic State (IS).


It has now emerged that she is nine months pregnant in a refugee camp in north-eastern Syria, and - unsurprisingly, given the circumstances - she would like to return home to the UK.


The British government has made it clear that they will do little to support her return, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid stating, 'If you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.'


However, as a survivor of terrorism, I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion. It is my view that, whilst indeed she did join IS, this was not a choice - she was groomed online as a child and brainwashed.


Even back in 2015, people were coming forward to say that Shamima was a victim. Therefore I have to question: what has changed?


Given the circumstances, the denial of return is an apparent U-turn on our values, and an abandonment of a child who was sadly groomed and radicalised online. 


It is important to recognise that radicalisation is more likely to happen among the vulnerable and disaffected, so we must also consider what it is about our society that could leave such a young woman to be susceptible to radicalisation.

"Refusing her the right to return not only shows a failure of our values, but we must also address what message we are sending to extremists"

We clearly still have a lot to learn, and Shamima Begum's case may well be an excellent starting point, a way to help us build the community cohesion that is needed to stop other young people falling victim to this fate.


I'm not saying that she shouldn't be accountable. I agree that on her return there should be investigation, and if it deemed appropriate, Shamima should face prosecution. At the age of 19, she must now understand that there are consequences for her actions. 


Yet I believe that refusing her the right to return not only shows a failure of our values, but we must also address what message we are sending to extremists. 


The government is currently at risk of setting a double standard. There is a lack of consistency in their approach as they have let men back in from IS but seem unwilling to give Shamima the same right. 


A particularly prominent argument for the denial of the return is that she shows little remorse but her family have argued that this may be a result of her having Stockholm syndrome, and that's why she has not criticised the crimes carried out by IS. In my opinion, disillusioned young minds should be challenged and re-educated, not shunned.


As a society we must not abandon our values in the face of extremism, for these are values that the tactics of terrorism aim to erode. In fact, we must develop a rhetoric of hope, where we enable and support young people like Shamima to be rehabilitated.


We must allow them to reintegrate back into our society that is likely to have failed them before. Acts of compassion in this regard are of the utmost importance to further our fight against extremism and radicalisation. 


Rendering Shamima stateless by leaving her to live in a camp will prove little to anyone. It will not act as a deterrent to others and will only punish an unborn child. 


And, indeed, who could be a more valuable resource to warn other young people of the harsh reality of online radicalisation than that of a victim herself?

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