Opinion: Why I believe Shamima Begum should be welcomed back to Britain

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum. Image: The Times

Friday, February 15, 2019

The founder and director of Faith Matters and the Tell Mama project, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, explains why he thinks IS schoolgirl Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to Britain. These are his views and not talkRADIO's.

Shamima Begum, one of the group of three young girls who left Bethnal Green to the Caliphate of the so-called Islamic State has been found.

During an interview with The Times in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, she expressed a desire to come back to the UK, whilst also saying that she did not regret fleeing to the Islamic State.

I, for one, think we should let her return.

Her experiences make her a powerful voice and an asset in the fight against extremism and terrorism.



There is a real opportunity here for Shamima to make a difference for good. Though this depends on many variable factors and may never happen, is it not worth a try?

Another positive that could arise from her returning is a challenge to the prevalent narrative of Islamic extremists that the West ‘targets Muslims.’

Allowing her back will deal the first blow to that narrative, but investigating her will show that people who have done wrong are confronted by the law, irrespective of income levels, race or religion.


'Chance for redemption'

Renu Begum, eldest sister of Shamima Begum, 15, holds her sister's photo. Image: Getty

This is not to suggest Shamima should be used as a pawn. However, we must make clear that the chance for redemption comes with some penance and payback to the country.

Shamima is pregnant with her third child, and as she lost her first two to sickness and malnutrition, her desire to return to the UK seems to be for the wellbeing of her child.


Her desire is for her child to grow up safe. Our desire as a nation should be to hold her to account for her decisions and her actions.

We must address the concerns. The comments she makes are those of someone who has bought into the idea of an Islamic Caliphate.

This is deeply troubling since the concept of a Caliphate is built on rights linked to religious identities and with the superiority of one faith, in this case Islam. The Caliphate undermines the core value of universal human rights for all.


'She should be provided with ongoing support'

If she cannot be prosecuted, then she should be provided with ongoing support to rehabilitate her.

Given she has bought into the ideology of IS, leaving her unsupported in our country makes her vulnerable to be used by Islamist extremist groups or alternatively her views may harden violent action. These views need to be untangled and undermined to bring her into the mainstream of society.

However, if Shamima does end up changing her views when back in the UK, she may end up being someone who can speak out against extremism, warning young people against joining groups like IS.



This is even more essential today since there are real problems for some young people to distinguish between Islam and Islamist extremist thinking.

Shamima’s voice can help in this battle for hearts and minds and in distinguishing the two for young people.

This country has said that she can come back – in fact MP Ben Wallace said on GMB that as a British citizen she has the right to come back.

The Islamic state on the other hand, does not give people the chance to leave. We must think about the positive message us allowing her back in will have.