A glimpse inside the fairy-tale world of deradicalization
If only we could squeeze Shamima Begum (hijab, prayer mat, Koran and all) into H.G. Wells’ time machine and catapult the ISIS bride to the era of Guy Fawkes, we might just about solve our problem with jihadi Judases returning to Britain.
In merry olde England, we’d truss up a traitor and get a bad-tempered horse to yank him across hard ground. Then we’d then string him on IKEA-like gallows, disembowel, behead and carve the quisling into four quarters. The fairer sex didn’t get hung, drawn and quartered—a female turncoat was simply burned.
The 668-year-old Treason Act is still in force today—barely recognizable, as we’ve defanged it with numerous amendments. We haven’t used it since 1945, when Britain prosecuted William Joyce (aka Lord Haw-Haw), a Nazi fink who ratted on us during World War II.
Half a century after Haw-Haw, we don’t believe stuff and nonsense about treason because we don’t buy into all this guff about the nation state, borders, loyalty to Queen and country, patriotism or nationalism (a Trumpian swear word). In Cool Britannia, we believe in nothing except diversity, LGBTI+ nooky and the venerableness of victimhood.
Shamima Begum, according to our John Lennonesque creed (“Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do”), is not a traitor to be burned at stake, but a victim perched high on the greasy totem pole of intersectionality. She’s a Muslim, brown-skinned woman of Bangladeshi-origin. She’s just had a baby in a Syrian refugee camp, as she couldn’t get to a state-funded NHS convenience clinic, so the needle of sympathy on the liberal Richter scale has jumped even higher.
Shamima’s no bleeding-heart Leftie; in fact, she’s remorseless and unrepentant: “When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance,” she told The Times. She has compared the Manchester Arena bombing, which killed girlie fans of Ariana Grande, to airstrikes by the western allies that killed non-combatants in ISIS-held areas.
Unlike libbies who believe in global warming and veganism, Begum believes in Allah and she’s prepared to die as a martyr. She stakes her life on the Koran and Hadith. She is convinced they are divinely-inspired sources of authority. She believes in Islamic supremacy, in her vocation as a jihadi, and in a country; even better, a Caliphate. This explains why at the age of 15 she slipped out of her London home and hopped on a plane to ISIS Disneyland in Syria.
Ironically, Begum believes in “treason” and the death penalty for treason. In Islam, apostasy is treason. Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar University (Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby’s new compadre), categorically asserts: “To convert from Islam is ‘treason’ that should carry the death penalty.” All four schools of Islamic jurisprudence confirm this law. Would it not be fair to simply try Shamima by her own standards of Islamic law? Even by British standards, she has committed treason by aiding ISIS, who have attacked British forces in Syria.
Begum’s lawyer is playing the victim card, claiming she’s a victim of “grooming and ISIS propaganda.” Predictably, the leftwing Guardian’s editorial is calling her “undoubtedly vulnerable” because “she was groomed online at the age of 15.” Her family has even suggested that Begum’s reluctance to denounce ISIS may be because of “Stockholm syndrome.” But even by the wildest stretches of semantic elasticity, Begum isn’t a victim.
A victim isn’t free to choose. Morally equating Begum’s free choice to join ISIS with the helplessness of underage victims of sexual violence who were groomed on an industrial scale in England by Muslim Pakistani men or to ISIS’s Yazidi women victims forced into sex-slavery is abhorrent beyond description. She made a free choice to join a group of well-publicized genocidal monsters.
To call Begum a victim is a moral outrage that degrades the entire reality of victimhood. To label Begum a victim is to rob her of agency and instrumentality, as well as of her faculty to act as a foot soldier for Islam. So what if she was fifteen? At her age, British girls are given the right to kill their unborn babies without permission from their parents!
“How do you solve a problem like Shamima?” asks Guardian columnist Kenan Malik arguing that Begum “may well change her views over time.” Malik makes Shamima look like a distant cousin of Sister Maria from The Sound of Music, who will one day meet her Captain von Trapp and fight Nazi (or Islamic) imperialism.
The staple answer to the question of solving the problem of returning jihadis is the magic mantra of deradicalization. The BBC, Guardian and Evening Standard suggest referring Begum to Britain’s £40 million a year deradicalization program. Britain’s counter-extremism czar Sara Khan calls for Begum to “undergo an effective deradicalization program.”
Deradicalization is now a cash-fueled industry with its gravy train university departments, academics, social workers, journals and conferences. It helps politicians to say they are doing something. But where is the evidence that deradicalization works? In fact, deradicalization “is practically impossible” says Prof Boaz Ganor, from the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism. It only works in a minority of cases, he cautions.
“Around 2009 to 2010, this was very fashionable. It really looked like the answer. Now it is looking like a bit of a fad,” concedes Prof Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at King’s College, London. Such programs have been tried with little success in Egypt, Pakistan, Singapore, Yemen, Indonesia, the USA, and European nations. In 2016, two-thirds of jihadis released from British prisons simply refused to engage with prison deradicalization programs.
Many studies, for fear of being labeled Islamophobic, commit a serious category error and make little distinction between Islamic jihadists, white supremacists, the alt-Right, the Far Right, and neo-Nazi radicalization.
Deradicalization has more chance of success with neo-Nazis than with Islamic extremists. Why? Jihadis use the appeal to authority. Their authority—the Koran—is infallible because (unlike Mein Kampf) it’s dictated from heaven. Islam hasn’t fallen foul of Enlightenment higher criticism or postmodern hermeneutics as with liberal readings of the Bible. “The Koran says it! I believe it! You can take your deradicalization and shove it!” as extremist Anjem Choudhary would say.
Deradicalization is based on the wishful thinking of Western liberalism: humans are basically good; evil is a myth; tolerance, pluralism and co-existence are universal values shared by jihadis; Islamic extremists are closet secularists and scientific materialists and once we show them the glories of Western liberalism they will beat their AK-47s into ploughshares and their suicide bomb vests into Greenpeace T-shirts.
Deradicalization also assumes the bias of Western progressivism: punishment doesn’t work, Muslims are victims of colonialism and racism, jihadis are victims of brainwashing, and they can be re-programmed to accept the superior virtues of religious relativism and the truth that there is no ultimate truth. Then, we can together live as Western Epicureans and eat, drink, make love and not jihad.
Shamima Begum’s latest Sky News interview demonstrates the delusional assumptions underpinning the Scientology-like cult of deradicalization. When asked if she knew what ISIS was doing when she left for Syria, including beheadings and executions, she replied: “Yeah, I knew about those things and I was okay with it. … From what I heard, Islamically that is all allowed. So I was okay with it.”
H.G. Wells’ time machine has inadvertently solved our problem of Shamima. She has, of her own accord, stepped into a religious text and retrojected herself into the primitive and brutish world of seventh-century Arabia. Why does she want to return to a kaffir state like Britain? She can stay in Syria with her fellow jihadis and practice her religion of peace. Or she can find a home in any of the world’s 56 Muslim countries.
(Front Page Mag)
The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist, academic and editor of Rebel Priest
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