Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Find It Very Hard to Believe That Anyone Wants to Cover Up Their Face; Britain's First Female Muslim Tory MP Tells Rosamund Urwin about Saving Girls from IS, Teaching All Women English and Breaking into a White Boys' Club

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Find It Very Hard to Believe That Anyone Wants to Cover Up Their Face; Britain's First Female Muslim Tory MP Tells Rosamund Urwin about Saving Girls from IS, Teaching All Women English and Breaking into a White Boys' Club

Article excerpt

Byline: RosamundUrwin

NUS GHANI is in full flow about the folly of British girls wanting to be jihadi brides. "Why would you give up every right you have in this country to have no rights whatsoever?" she asks, her usually-soft voice raised in bewilderment. "I can't think of anything more frightening than being in that situation in a farflung country with a language you don't speak."

The MP for Wealden in East Sussex -- who's the first female Muslim Conservative MP -- acknowledges that IS (or Daesh, as she calls it) pitches itself as exotic. "If young women have been brought up in traditional homes, their life might be a tight circle: home, friends, school. The lure of Daesh is you're going to explore a new land, live a different life; it's the most exciting thing you can possibly do."

That, she adds hastily, is a lie. "This is no package-holiday deal. There is nothing but trauma for you at the other end. Being a jihadi bride [is] signing up to someone who might die at any moment... and you belong to him."

I've met the 43-year-old in a borrowed office in Portcullis House; hers -- typically for the new intake -- is a box without a view. In this world where everything is hyper-managed, Ghani comes across as spontaneous and warm. I get a hand on the knee, and it feels natural, rather than something she's read in one of those "how to win friends" books that certain politicians seem to rely on.

She also "speaks human". When I ask what her escape is from Westminster, she becomes wide-eyed: "Great British Bake-off. Ll-love." She bakes with her daughter, Farah, working off the calories in Ashdown Forest in her constituency. "There's a lot of walking and a little -- I would say running, my husband would say waddling." Ghani sits on the home affairs select committee. Last week, the committee heard the testimony of Konika Dhar, the sister of Abu Rumaysah who is believed to be masked IS executioner "Jihadi Sid".

"It was a very charged session," Ghani recalls. "Miss Dhar has a memory of him that doesn't fit with what he has become... But it's important for us to understand what's going on. It's incredibly rare for us to come across someone whose family member has joined a death cult."

Ghani then spoke about what IS does. Enslaving. Beheading. Talking about a 12-year-old who'd been repeatedly raped, tears came to her eyes.

"I'm a mum. I'm human," she says of her reaction. "We've got British men and women signing up to this. There's this feeling that when people join Daesh, they're doing something pious. But they're a nightmare organisation. They're just a gang -- the worst gang possible."

Ghani wanted to find the tipping point for Abu Rumaysah, to understand how we can stop other young people being radicalised. "Miss Dhar felt there were people around [her brother] who brainwashed him... Predators -- in any form of grooming -- try to become your friends to find your vulnerabilities."

She has spoken to parents worried about their children being radicalised and believes we need to show these families how to counteract the brainwashing: "You'd worry about your children being groomed if it was by a sexual predator -- these are predators by another name. [Parents] want to go somewhere for advice."

Ghani says many of these parents will have had a similar upbringing to her, where faith was private. "You rarely came across religion being mentioned on the news. It was not politicised, so we never had a religious political identity... Now faith has become so politicised. It's become a movement." She feels young Muslims are being misled about their religious heritage. "[There's] a stark difference between the religious heritage of migrants for generations, and the new form of Wahhabism [an ultraconservative branch of Sunni Islam with Saudi Arabian roots], which is what Daesh is a very extreme form of. Wahhabism is a new export. It's taking over. …

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