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Trump Says No to Returning ISIS Bride. Should He?

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President Trump in the Oval Office (Photo; Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Trump in the Oval Office (Photo; Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump said he was the one who made the final decision not to allow ISIS bride Hoda Muthana back into the U.S.

Speaking for the position of the administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “She’s a noncitizen terrorist. She has no legal basis for her claim of U.S. citizenship. She’s not coming back to the United States to create the risk that somebody should return to the battlefield and continue to put at risk American people, American kids, American boys and girls that were sent to help defeat ISIS. She put them at risk. She’s not a citizen. She’s not coming back.”

Pompeo didn’t elaborate on why the U.S. doesn’t consider Muthana a citizen, saying only there was a “strong legal basis for our claim.”

Muthana’s birth certificate lists her as being born in Hackensack, New Jersey.

While the U.S. is known as one of the few countries that automatically grant citizenship to children born in the country, there are exceptions to this rule. One is that children born to foreign diplomats do not acquire birthright citizenship.

Muthana’s father was a Yemeni diplomat. However, Muthana’s lawyer, Hassan Shibly [who also serves as the executive director of the Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)], says Muthana’s father left his diplomatic post before his daughter was born.

Muthana herself said if allowed to return, she is willing to submit herself to the U.S. justice system, which would almost certainly entail long jail time. Some argue since she denounced ISIS ideology, she could ultimately become a voice in preventing other young people from becoming radicalized.

Muthana’s case will no doubt be subjected to the full force of the U.S. legal system, pitting the government against the claims of her lawyer.

After deceiving her family and buying a ticket to Turkey with her college tuition money, Muthana traveled to Syria when she was 20 to become an ISIS bride in Syria. Now 24, Muthana says she changed her beliefs and wants to return with her 18-month-old son, the child of her second of three marriages to ISIS fighters.

Claiming she was radicalized online after a religiously-restrictive (but not extremist) childhood, Muthana now describes her younger self as “naive, angry and arrogant.”

Muthana’s case, which most likely will be decided in the U.S. courts, is ideologically complex  — all the more so because there is a child involved. Ironically, it is the same President Trump that urged European countries to take back their native ISIS fighters from Syria to face justice at home. This policy, he reasons, would assure that these foreign fighters would not be released, allowing them to regroup and perpetrate even more attacks – either in the Middle East or in their homelands.

While not actually a fighter herself, Muthana played a significant role in ISIS recruiting others to the brutal terror group and its ideology. If she is a declared a U.S. citizen, she should face the legal consequences of her actions. If not, ditto (just not in America).

No one wants to feel like a dupe or put themselves in unnecessary danger — and they shouldn’t have to. But missing in this discussion of where she will ultimately live are the following questions: However good it might make us feel to write her off, are we as a society ready to say that someone as young as 24 is not redeemable? And what about her child? Is an 18-month-year old also not redeemable?

One of the things that distinguishes the West from brutal Islamist terror groups like ISIS is our belief in humanity, the power to change for the good and the Godly quality of mercy, without which the world would indeed be a brutal place.

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org