The home­com­ing ji­hadis

The Week - - Politics News -

The de­feat of Is­lamic State and the fall of Raqqa, cap­i­tal of its self­pro­claimed caliphate, is cause for cel­e­bra­tion, said Rash­mee Roshan Lall on Mid­dle East On­line. But now a new and ter­ri­ble dilemma faces Western pol­icy-mak­ers. How to deal with all the Western ji­hadis re­turn­ing to their home coun­tries? Some 20,000 fight­ers from 33 dif­fer­ent na­tions are thought to have been in Syria, 2,500 of them from Europe. What if on re­turn they start plan­ning at­tacks on home soil? Western lead­ers have now given their an­swer, said Robert Fisk in The In­de­pen­dent: they’ve de­cided to have the fight­ers killed. “If they’re in Raqqa they’re go­ing to die in Raqqa,” as Brett Mcgurk, US en­voy to the anti-isis coali­tion, put it. Or, in the words of Tory min­is­ter Rory Ste­wart: “These peo­ple are a se­ri­ous dan­ger to us… un­for­tu­nately the only way of deal­ing with them will be, in al­most ev­ery case, to kill them.” By hand­ing the names and pho­tos of Euro­pean fight­ers to Kur­dish and Iraqi mili­tia, Bri­tain and France are ef­fec­tively out­sourc­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of their own cit­i­zens. For decades we’ve con­demned Mid­dle East­ern dic­ta­tors “for their sav­agery and drum­head courts”. Now we’re do­ing the same thing.

And that just plays into the hands of ter­ror­ist groups like Isis, said Richard Bar­rett, a former di­rec­tor of coun­tert­er­ror­ism at MI6, in The Guardian. They want to pro­voke gov­ern­ments into a back­lash that re­in­forces the di­vide be­tween sup­port­ers and op­po­nents, and bol­sters ex­trem­ism. But in any case, Ste­wart’s so­lu­tion over­looks the fact that at least 400 ji­hadis are al­ready back in Bri­tain – and so far very few have been notably en­gaged in ter­ror­ist plots. As Max Hill QC, the man over­see­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s ter­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion, ar­gued last week, the vast ma­jor­ity went out as “naive” teenagers and were soon “dis­il­lu­sioned” by the sav­age re­al­ity of life in the caliphate. That cer­tainly seems to be true of “Jihadi Jack”, said Katie Grant on in­ Jack Letts left Ox­ford at the age of 18 to join up with Isis in 2014. But he then fled the group and was cap­tured by Kur­dish forces. “I hate [Isis] more than the Amer­i­cans do,” he said re­cently in an in­ter­view with the BBC from his cell.

Let’s not be naive in turn, said Gareth Browne in The Daily Tele­graph. I’ve been look­ing at the hard drive of a cap­tured Bel­gian ji­hadist, and it showed no sign what­so­ever that she’d fallen out of love with Isis ide­ol­ogy. That’s why it was “as­ton­ish­ingly glib” of Max Hill to speak as he did, said Camilla Cavendish in The Sun­day Times. No doubt there are some pen­i­tent souls “who’ve crept home to their fam­i­lies af­ter hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ences”; but many more will be re­ceived as he­roes in their own com­mu­ni­ties – or in prison, if they’re sent there. How reck­less, then, to ad­vise that we go soft on these peo­ple and re­frain from pros­e­cut­ing them: it’s now even be­ing sug­gested that they should be of­fered so­cial hous­ing and have their rent paid for them. Yes, the long-term aim must be in­te­gra­tion. In the mean­time, those ji­hadis who show no sign of con­tri­tion should face the full force of the law.

“Jihadi Jack” Letts: naive?

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