London – A shooting range has been criticised for offering customers the chance to fire at a target of jihadi bride Shamima Begum.
The Ultimate Airsoft Range in New Brighton, Merseyside, said it had received a ‘record’ number of requests to practise shooting at the 19-year-old mother.
It defended its actions by saying it was simply ‘listening to customers’ and providing them with ‘light-hearted fun’.
Begum, who ran away to join IS in 2015, was stripped of her British citizenship by Sajid Javid last week after telling reporters at a Syrian refugee camp – where she recently gave birth – she had ‘no regrets’ about joining the terror group.
Her family, who believe she should be allowed home, say they will appeal against the decision. Visitors as young as six can visit the shooting range, which hosts children’s birthday parties and charges just £7 for a session.
The attraction, which opened last year, also offers targets of other well-known figures, including Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Donald Trump, Osama Bin Laden and pop star Justin Bieber.
It uses spring or gas powered airsoft guns – which shoot BB gun pellets – and visitors can choose from a variety of replica weapons, including pistols, assault and sniper rifles. A spokesman for the range, which was closed yesterday, defended its actions, saying the targets provide ‘fantastic reactions and conversations and allow people to have some light-hearted fun and bring out the inner-child in us all’.
‘The targets don’t always reflect personal opinions and we don’t want to condone terrorism,’ the spokesman said. ‘But after watching the interview with Begum, there was a lack of empathy that she had shown and we decided to listen to our customers and use her as targets.’
But Labour MP Angela Eagle, who represents the Wallasey constituency where the range is based, criticised its actions. She said: ‘It is wrong to use real people as targets as it can be misinterpreted. I am disapproving of shooting people who exist. They shouldn’t be using living people as targets – especially as six-year-olds might be playing.’
Wirral councillor Chris Blakeley added: ‘I think it’s thoughtless. It’s a very, very emotive subject. While everyone has different views on whether she should be allowed back, it’s a serious matter and should not be treated in such a light-hearted and discourteous way.’
The shooting range, run by father-of-one Michael Jones, from Liscard, advertised the opportunity to fire at an image of Begum online.
He posted a video on Twitter of her picture – with her face at the centre of target rings – being printed, with the hashtags ‘#traitors’, ‘#madeyourchoice’ and ‘#noremorse’.
While some social media users applauded his actions, others described it as ‘sick’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘disgusting’.
One said: ‘This is abhorrent. How would they feel if that picture was a member of their family?’
Another added: ‘I am a shooting enthusiast. Using human images or shapes as target practice is not the done thing in the UK – certainly not in any club I have been to.’
Merseyside Police said they had not received any complaints about the targets, but some locals online called for the force to take action.
Jacqui Quennel wrote: ‘This is inciting hate crime and the club should be closed down. I’m a resident of Wallasey and would like to know if Mersey Police are going to take action.’
* Hundreds of children may have been born to foreign fighters who fled Britain to join IS, Sajid Javid warned yesterday. Every child born to a British parent would automatically acquire their nationality, he said. Some 900 UK citizens have travelled to the so-called caliphate – with around 360 returning.