Jihadi Bride: I Thought Joining ISIS Was ‘Doing the Right Thing as a Muslim’

ISIS
Metropolitan Police / AP

Former teen jihadi bride Shamima Begum claimed that she joined the Islamic State terror group in Syria because she thought she was “doing the right thing as a Muslim” and she did not know ISIS was a death cult, thinking it was only “an Islamic community”.

Speaking during her first live television interview to ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, Begum appeared to be continuing to market herself as, not so much as a rehabilitated extremist, but a naive teen groomed by the terror group and manipulated her into agreeing to leave her London home to marry a jihadist in Syria aged 15.

Far from the hijab-clad woman Britons saw when reacquainted with the then-19-year-old during her first interviews with The Times from the notorious Al Hol refugee camp for ISIS family members in 2019, Begum continues to sport her rebranded appearance — a flesh-exposing top, branded baseball cap, loose hair, and makeup — that the mainstream media appeared to fawn over when the look was first debuted earlier this year.

Now living at the Al Roj refugee camp in northern Syria, the 22-year-old said that she did not intend to join the terror group “for violent reasons” and “not because I wanted to be a terrorist. It was because I thought I was doing the right thing as a Muslim. I did not want to hurt anyone in Syria or anywhere else in the world.”

Asked to elaborate on how it was “the right thing” as a Muslim to join a death cult, Begum told Good Morning Britain‘s Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley: “At the time, I did not know that it was a death cult. I thought it was an Islamic community that I was joining.”

Begum went on to say that she had been “groomed” by extremists online “and taken advantage of and manipulated into coming”.

The 22-year-old was confronted with the alleged intelligence gathered during her time under ISIS which informed the government’s decision to revoke her British citizenship, including that that she was not, as she depicted, just a passive housewife.

The Good Morning Britain host quoted an April 2019 report from the Mail on Sunday that MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, had briefed the prime minister and home secretary on Begum’s role in ISIS, including that she had stitched vests for suicide bombers.

Other reports that year include “well placed” sources telling The Telegraph that Begum had earned the reputation as a “strict enforcer” of shariah law in the morality police, worked to recruit other impressionable young women, and was allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle.

Begum refuted both claims, asking for a chance to return to Britain and stand trial, saying: “The fact that you think I should rather rot here instead of face trial like what the democracy that you live in says that you should do — everyone deserves a fair trial — do you not think that I should get a fair trial for these things that I have been accused of?”

Fifteen-year-old Begum left for Syria via Turkey with two other school friends, Amira Abase (also 15), and Kadiza Sultana (16), in 2015 to marry Islamic State fighters. Both Abase and Sultana are believed to have died in the war zone during airstrikes.

Shortly after Begum resurfaced, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid removed her British citizenship on the grounds that due to her heritage, she was able to access Bangladeshi citizenship, meaning the British government would not be rendering her stateless. The 22-year-old has since been involved in a court battle with the British government to return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her nationality, with the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, siding with the home secretary.

Begum has said that she cannot go to Bangladesh because its government had already refused to accept her as a citizen and that if she does return, she will face the death penalty on terrorism charges.

”Bangladesh has already said they’d never let me back in and said if I do ever come back in, it would be the death penalty for me… I’m pretty sure the second that I land, they will give me the death penalty. Probably no trial at all,” Begum said on Wednesday.

Javid defended his 2019 ruling, and without going into detail, suggested the ruling was informed by details of Begum’s life in Syria exposed by intelligence agencies that determined her a security threat.

The minister told GMB: “It was based on the advice of my department but also our intelligence agencies. I’m clear that it was absolutely the right decision to protect the British people.”

“If you were the home secretary and you were presented with the information that I had at the time, you would have made exactly the same decision because your job as home secretary is to protect the British people,” he added.

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