Renu Begum, eldest sister of Shamima Begum, 15, holds her sister's photo as she is interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard, as the relatives of three missing schoolgirls believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State have pleaded for them to return home, on February 22, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images)


by Amit Roy

THE one question that has not been asked about Shamima Begum is how her return to the UK would impact the British-Asian community in general and Bangladeshis, in particular. Would the harassment British Muslims suffer increase or decrease if she were to come back?

There are some politicians who say her return cannot be blocked because the UK cannot make her stateless. But the home secretary Sajid Javid has declared: “My message
is clear – if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad, I will not hesitate to prevent your return.”

Shamima, who was 15 when she “married” Yago Riedijk, a Dutch Daesh (Islamic State) fighter, three weeks after arriving in Syria, says she “wouldn’t have found someone like him back in the UK”. She adds that she doesn’t regret going in the first place because “it’s made me stronger, tougher”; when she saw her first decapitated head in a bin, it
“didn’t faze me at all”; and she knew Daesh were conducting executions, but she was “ok with it, at first”.

She is now 19 and just given birth to a son after two children failed to survive. She claims she was “just a wife” and that the security services have nothing on her since she did
not do anything “dangerous”. All things considered, she reckons she had “a good time”.

Antony Lloyd, of The Times, the reporter who interviewed her in a refugee camp, has shown remarkable generosity by arguing: “She was a 15-year-old schoolgirl who made
a terrible mistake… and we must do our best to rehabilitate her among our own people.”

Public opinion appears to be more in tune with Reg Henning, whose brother, Alan, a British aid worker, was beheaded by “Jihadi John”. He is emphatic she should “absolutely not” be allowed back.

Shamima’s family naturally want her back though they had no clue what she was up to when she fled to Syria in February 2015, with two other girls, Kadiza Sultana and
Amira Abase, from Bethnal Green Academy. They were reportedly following in the footsteps of another girl, Sharmeena Begum, from the same school, who travelled to Syria in December 2014.

Mohammed Shafiq, head of antiextremism charity the Ramadhan Foundation, said he was “deeply disturbed” by Shamima’s attempts to “normalise” Daesh.

“Nothing in what they did was good and they are enemies of Islam and Muslims”, he said.

That is the point.

The chances are when Shamima is allowed to return – as she probably will be – she will be held for a few weeks or months and then will begin to live the life of a “celebrity” which she undoubtedly will become.

There is so much interest in her story that she will become a regular guest on TV shows. Perhaps there will be a lucrative book deal. By and by, she will become a kind of spokeswoman for her brand of Islam.

As she has said, she is no longer “the silly girl” who ran away four years ago. Lots of impressionable young pupils at Bethnal Green Academy and elsewhere will look up to her and want to emulate her in some way.

Is that what families like that of Shamima want?

And with her as a mother, what kind of young man will her son grow up to be?

Shamima is not the only moral dilemma facing the government.

As US president Donald Trump reminded Britain and other western allies last Sunday (17), there are 800 ‘jihadi’ prisoners in Syria to take back.