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Ian O'Doherty: 'The strange case of the jihadi bride and Western weakness'


Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

When people began to leave their homes in Europe to travel and fight for Isis in Syria, some questions began to be asked.

For starters, there was never any possibility that Isis would be able to hold on to the vast swathes of desert they had occupied in Syria and Iraq.

Yes, they would behave with a level of barbarity not seen since the Khmer Rouge or, at a push, the Mexican cartels.

But there's a big difference between cutting the head off a terrified civilian and actually fighting against the combined forces of just about every military power in the region.

Isis themselves knew that - they might be evil, but they're not stupid and the only pertinent question was how much havoc and nihilistic carnage they could cause before they were finally toppled.

In advance of their eventual collapse, the leadership has spent the last two years warning Europe and the West that even when they were done as a territorial power, they would simply revert to an al-Qaeda system, where they either directly train, or directly inspire, jihadists to go off and kill as many infidels as they could - all the better to terrify civilians, inspire lunatics and generally create mayhem.

At the time, many people were of a mind to dismiss the boasts about thousands of potential suicide bombers returning to their countries of origin.

But since when have Isis not been good to their word?

The mistake of not taking them seriously came from the top down, and Barack Obama's dismissive description of the group as 'Junior Varsity' was up there with George Bush's ridiculous and premature declaration of 'Mission Accomplished' after he went into Iraq.

We all know how that ended up.

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Of course, as is our wont here in Ireland, many of us simply laughed at the suggestion that Ireland would ever be targeted by the group. These were the same people who also laughed at the idea that any Irish citizens would ever go to fight for the caliphate.

The fact that Isis were thoughtful enough to include the Irish tricolour on the list of countries they intended to attack should have been a giveaway, but the real moment of truth came with the case of Alexandr Bekmirzaev, the naturalised Irish citizen who was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria.

This country now has to decide whether we want him back (why would we?) and while that raises complex questions about how freely we dispense citizenship, and what really constitutes the rights and responsibilities of anyone with an Irish passport, it's a no-brainer when compared to the rather more complex case of Shamima Begum.

Unlike Bekmirzaev, who claimed to have gone to Syria by 'mistake' (like a jihadist Withnail & I), Begum has no such qualms.

Rather than play the usual cards of contrition and remorse, she insists she wasn't fazed by the sight of heads in bins, or the daily public executions, or the savage cruelty meted out towards women.

In fact, she has almost admirably stuck to her guns - after all, saying you still support the Manchester Arena atrocity when you are begging to return to that very country is, in its own deeply, deeply weird way, quite honest.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid's decision to revoke her citizenship will probably be overturned on appeal, but it has been interesting to see so many white people telling Javid, himself of Muslim heritage, that he is being racist.

Apparently, because she was 15 when she left her home in Bethnal Green, London to move to Syria, she was too young to accept any responsibility for her actions.

But she's 19 now and still doesn't regret them. In fact, her only regret is that Isis lost, not that she joined them, and her supporters are playing the strongest card they have - white, liberal, middle-class guilt.

The great strength of the jihadists is our own weakness.

Simply put, we've been engaging in our own destructive form of a cultural civil war where it's now much more important to demonstrate your moral superiority and virtue over others than it is to look at things logically.

The one word that keeps cropping up in relation to this horrible woman is 'compassion'. Why? There was no compassion for the hundreds of thousands of victims of Isis. Nor has there been any indication of compassion from Begum towards those victims, either in the Middle East and the ones in Europe.

What the chattering classes see as compassion, the terrorists rightly see as weakness.

They don't just hate the West for all its undoubted moral and cultural superiority, they despise it for its spinelessness.

But there is an interesting thought-game to be played.

If Shamima Begum had been a white, 15-year-old boy who had travelled to fight with Isis, and who said he wasn't bothered by the sight of heads in bins, would we be having the same conversation?

Would the chattering classes be making excuses for this naïve young child or would they be holding him up as yet another example of toxic masculinity, who is a danger to the people around him and, therefore, should be made to stay in the bed he made for himself?

You don't need to be a psychic to figure that answer out.

Let her rot.

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