UK shooting range faces controversy for using Shamima Begum picture in target practice

UK shooting range faces controversy for using Shamima Begum picture in target practice
A shooting range near Liverpool has come under fire for using an image of Shamima Begum as a target for customers as young as six.
3 min read
27 February, 2019
Begum has said she would like to be an 'anti-IS poster girl' [BBC]

A shooting range in the UK is using as a target a picture of Shamima Begum, the formerly British teenager who ran away from home to join the Islamic State group in 2015, and has defended it as "light-hearted fun".

"The targets provide some fantastic reactions and conversations and allow people to have some light-hearted fun and bring out the inner child in us all," said the owners of Ultimate Airsoft Range in Wallasey, near Liverpool.

Owners Michael Jones and Emma Saul said they began using Begum's portrait for shooting practice due to a "record number" of customer requests, reported Victoria Derbyshire for BBC2.

Visitors to the range, some of them children as young as six, can take aim at a black-and-white portrait of Shamima Begum overlayed with a target. Her name is superimposed on the bottom of the target in a Bengali-style English-language script.

Some British people supported the shooting range choice to emblazon a target with Begum’s face. "Power to their elbow! Bet their aim has improved in leaps and bounds!" tweeted one user.

Others said the decision amounted to "Islamophobia" and was representative of the "dehumanisation" of British children of immigrants.

"I'm actually close to tears," tweeted journalist Ash Sarkar in response.

"Sajid Javid and the media at large have used Shamima Begum as a proxy for something else: a Briton who was never truly British, the criminal who is unworthy of being even tried under British law, the exception who stands outside of humanity."

Other images used as targets at the shooting range include those of Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, Justin Bieber and Osama Bin Laden.

"The images don't necessarily always reflect personal opinions, but after watching footage of her interview and seeing her lack or remorse and empathy, we then decided to go ahead and use those images," Jones and Saul told  Derbyshire.

The case of Shamima Begum has dominated the headlines in the UK press in the past weeks since she surfaced in the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria after running away from home in Bethnal Green, London, to join the Islamic State group in 2014.

Begum was stripped of her British citizenship in a decision by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid that had ignited controversy on all sides of the debate. Her family have said they will legally challenge the decision.

Although her initial interviews with media outlets were unrepentant, Begum has since said she would like to return to the UK and become an "example of how someone can change". 

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