Jihadi Bride ‘Real and Current Threat to National Security’, Supreme Court Hears

Shamima Begum
Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Home Office has told the UK’s Supreme Court that Shamima Begum is a “real and current threat to national security”, as the jihadi bride fights to return to Britain to challenge the removal of her British citizenship in person.

Begum left London in 2015, along with two other Muslim girls, for Islamic State-controlled Syria in order to marry a jihadist when she was 15 years old. Begum was discovered in a Kurdish-run refugee camp housing other ISIS wives and children in February 2019 as the caliphate crumbled. Shortly after, the Home Office stripped Begum, whose parents originated from Bangladesh, of her British citizenship, reasoning she has not been illegally made stateless, given her supposed inherited second nationality.

The UK’s highest court has been hearing the case of the Islamic State member since November 23rd, with the Home Office’s lawyer saying that the removal of Begum’s British citizenship was justified.

“She is assessed to pose a real and current threat to national security. She is aligned with [Isis]. During the four years she has spent in Islamic State territory she had undergone radicalisation and ‘desensitisation to violence’,” Sir James Eadie QC said on Monday, according to The Guardian.

The Supreme Court also heard excerpts from a report by the UK’s internal intelligence agency, MI5, that women living under the caliphate were exposed to “desensitising acts of brutality” and even as non-combatants, they “regularly carried weapons and received some level of military training”.

This level of desensitisation was revealed in Begum last year when she casually admitted that she was not upset at having seen her first severed head. She had also expressed no regrets over joining the terrorist group, the remarks being put before the court by Mr Eadie, who said the 21-year-old jihadi bride had remained loyal to Islamic State “until the very end, she didn’t regret going and she wanted the caliphate to be victorious”.

Reports from the time claimed that Begum was not merely a housewife, but an “enforcer” for Islamic State’s morality police, and even stitched together suicide vests.

The MI5 report said that as a result, any ISIS wife having spent so long under those conditions returning to the UK could act as a source of inspiration to Islamic extremists in the UK and inspire attacks at home.

Those defending Begum claimed that because she was a child at the time she left the UK, she was a victim of grooming by the terrorist group and thus was not responsible for her actions and should be shown leniency.

Sir James denied these considerations, telling the Supreme Court that “there have been no findings and indeed no allegations of trafficking or grooming”.

“National security concerns are very real, very serious and not undermined a jot by the fact she went when she was very young,” he added.

In just the last year, Britons have witnessed the risk of taking jihadists at their word that they are reformed or deradicalised. In November 2019, convicted Islamist terrorist Usman Khan, who was released early from prison, went on a stabbing rampage on London Bridge, killing two people facilitating the deradicalisation programme he was attending. Khan’s lawyer had later said that his client had fooled the authorities into believing he was rehabilitated and was no longer a threat to society.

Kings College London published a study in July that revealed imprisoned Islamic terrorists were pretending to be reformed in order to secure early releases, with the report even citing that Khan “was considered a success story of an extremist turning their life around”. Researchers at KCL’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation consider this form of deception to be “false compliance”, which they said was based on the Islamic concept of “taqiyya”, which is “used to describe deception and dissimulation to hide one’s true intentions”.

In 2018, the research centre also published a report claiming that female ISIS members returning from the collapsed caliphate represented a national security risk, as they are increasingly being viewed as potential combatants. Last year, Europol revealed that Islamic State could be recruiting more women to the front line, noting that “female jihadis are as ideologically motivated as their male counterparts and their sense of empowerment lies in contributing to the building of an Islamic state”.


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