Knowingly becoming a jihadi bride should be a criminal offence

Reports say that the British schoolgirls who have run off to Islamic State territory, presumably to become jihadi brides, would not be charged with any offence in the unlikely event that they ever return to Britain. You’re just the wife, the girlfriend. Mea non culpa. The idea seems to be that merely marrying a terrorist – or willingly becoming their sex slave, perhaps – is no wrong.

Yes it is.

To say that it isn’t is to assume a notion of marriage that simply does not apply in this case. It is to assume a Westernised notion of marriage as a state endorsed symbol of love between two equals. And you can’t help who you love, now, can you? Simply marrying someone is not endorsing their actions, now, is it? (In fact, it gets you out of some sticky situations, legally, as you’re not obligated to testify against your spouse.)

Well, apart from the fact that, armed with an iron will and the help of a few good friends, you jolly well can help who you love (according to me), such a view of what’s going on is radically (pardon the pun) mistaken. Much more pertinent is to recognise that the act of travelling to Islamic State territory in order to become a jihadi bride is specifically intended to add support to Islamic State and its aims. The role of the wife is precisely to be subordinate and to be obedient to the husband. It is specifically to aid and abet the fighters. It is specifically to further the aims of this terrorism, by producing a supply of new members of the Caliphate, who in turn will be expected to fight, if male (and quite possibly from a very young age). For goodness sake, haven’t the people in charge of the laws in this country seen those jihadi recipes going around, such as the one giving instructions to how to make delicious pancakes for your jihadi husband to stoke up his energy for the next round of beheadings and rape? This is not the same as happening to cook a meal for a husband who then, using the energy from this meal, just happens to go and say, rob a bank. It’s not even the same as, say, happening to fall in love with a Nazi solider in occupied France, although there may be certain parallels there. To cook a jihadi pancake is specifically and intentionally providing your husband with food in order to enable him to kill, maim, and destroy. (And by the way, jihadi recipe folk, a stack of pancakes may be great for pudding, but the fact that you are suggesting this as a main course raises in my mind the suspicion that maybe you are short of food or know little about a balanced diet.)

If anyone doubts this, I suggest you read Elizabeth Anscombe’s marvellous book Intention, in which she carefully explains this point. She uses an example of somebody pumping water into a building in order to poison its inhabitants to make the point that an action may be intentional under one description but not under another. It is simply not good enough to say that these jihadi brides are not intentionally aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation: that is the reason they have gone there.

As to the serious worries that young girls are being groomed into becoming jihadi brides, this may well apply in some cases, and the law has a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with such issues, on a case by case basis, under rules of diminished responsibility. Suppose you are a woman living in a situation where there were great pressures on you to be obedient to your husband – that might in some circumstances diminish your responsibility for supporting his bad actions. But this is entirely different from knowingly entering into a marriage with a known terrorist in which you willingly take upon yourself the obligation to obey and support him. So don’t try saying that jihadi brides aren’t terrorists every bit as much as those who actually carry out the deeds.

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