What about inviting Islamic State teenager Shamima to live in Norwich?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 22 February 2019

Shamima Begum should be invited to live in Norwich, says Steven Downes      Picture Metropolitan Police/PA Wire


Shamima Begum should be invited to live in Norwich, says Steven Downes Picture Metropolitan Police/PA Wire .

PA Wire/PA Images

I’m not sure what has been worse for Shamima Begum - hanging out with the misogynistic psychopaths of Islamic State or being all over the UK’s media in recent days.

Norwich: the perfect place for IS teen Shamima Begum to rebuild her life?      Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich: the perfect place for IS teen Shamima Begum to rebuild her life? Picture: ANTONY KELLY

One thing is certain: you won’t find many 19-year-olds who have had to grow up so quickly.

Which is just as well, for Shamima has shown herself to be a teenager par extraordinaire.

Most teens have their “I’m going to run away” moment. Once, I got round the block before skulking back home. Another time, I just hid behind an armchair for a few hours. More determined teens can make it to a day or two on the run.

But Shamima has taken the flouncing strop to another level, by huffing off to Syria for four years, getting married to a terrorist and giving birth to his child.

Absolute scenes in her house if she came home: “Where have you been? Your mother has been worried sick. We told you he was only after one thing! Get upstairs and finish tidying your bedroom, like we asked you to in 2015.”

That’s what she wants to do (come home, not tidy her bedroom). Having got into bed - metaphorically and literally - with the baddies, she wants to come back to the UK to raise her infant son in an environment that doesn’t include shrapnel and air raids.

She can get stuffed, can’t she? You don’t leave your husband for the local Hell’s Angel president, then four years later try to go back to your husband because you’ve gone off black leather and beards.

Shamima arguably committed treason by running away to mix with the Medieval-minded morons of IS.

There, she left behind the comforting curriculum of English, maths, science and more, to study how to submit to men, how to behead, what to wear (clue: black), and how to burn the Stars and Stripes while firing an AK-47 in the air.

We encourage our children to see the world, but I don’t know of many parents who add: “Go out and narrow your mind. And bring back the head of an infidel.”

I am using hyperbole and - arguably - humour to make a point. For many of these views will understandably be expressed by people in response to Shamima’s “take me back” plea.

It looks as though she will be the handy target for so much impotent rage that people have towards those who “threaten our civilisation”.

It’s useful to have somebody to soak up all the brickbats: “Let her rot”; “We don’t want a terrorist living here”; “Her views are not British”; “Let her come back, then put her baby in care and jail her”.

There might be another way, though. How about we invite Shamima to come with her baby and live in Norwich?

Norwich is the city of strangers, the place that has welcomed countless refugees and persecuted groups down the centuries.

It’s a city with a multi-cultural feel, with shops and restaurants from across the globe, and people of scores of different nationalities.

Right now, it seems that the Government is bent on blanking Shamima. Her citizenship has been stripped and her route home blocked. She is the perfect poster girl for the “tough on terror” Tories.

We could take a different approach, though. We could see them for who they are - a young mother and her vulnerable baby, desperate for a refuge.

I don’t think Shamima is likely to recruit a terrorist cell in Anglia Square, nor burn the flag of Norfolk outside County Hall. The most likely scenario is that she’ll come back quietly, keep her head down, and hope she is soon forgotten.

There’s no better place to do that than Norwich. Apart from the “spare some change, mister?” questions, you can guarantee being left alone, even if you walk around the city for days on end.

I reckon Shamima would soon be de-radicalised by the sheer loveliness of the place.

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