They want to come back to the US, UK, Europe, Bangladesh and so many other countries. In this case, the “they” are the defeated members of the ISIS foreign fighters’ contingent, who are now abandoning the disintegrating Caliphate like rats in a sinking ship.
There are an estimated five thousand (5,000) European and American fighters and their families who have survived so far and want to trek back to the homelands in Europe and the US.
Many thousand more want to go back to Africa, Central Asia, Pakistan and other countries. For valid reason, these returnees pose an unparalleled security risk to any country that absorbs them.
The first reason for concern is that these people perpetrated great violence on other humans though the evidence of their crimes are still sketchy. However, this much is certain, even as a defeated force they will retain the toxic ideology that drove them to join the so called holy war in the first place.
Obviously, these ideologues will remain dormant for some time and their beliefs intact.
Some will be killed, others will come back:
In such a scenario, the question: is it for the greater benefit of tolerant, pluralist communities around the globe that such fanatics are exterminated?
The French defence minister did not mince any words when he said all foreign fighters should be killed in Syria and not in France. To that effect, the French dispatched Special Forces soldiers to Syria and Iraq with pictures of the French and other associated foreign fighters with specific goals to ensure that they never return to France.
No one is sure how effective they have been in liquidating these murderers but the effort shows a clear sense of terror that the Western countries hold towards these rogue nationals.
One may very well ask why we should not let them return. They are not fighting anymore and they will not have weapons.
Radicals won’t repudiate their creed:
Historically, the folks who went to fight against Franco were back in their respective countries after Franco managed to win the Spanish civil war. There have been people who went to fight in Nicaragua and some African countries who came back and were assimilated into their societies.
So, why not the Jihadis?
I think people really need to understand that the modern day Jihadi is a radically different animal than other revolutionaries and adventure seekers.
These people are not mere psychopaths; they have clearly laid out plans. Instead of living with the view to prosper, they want to die and go to Paradise. A very warped but cogent philosophy requires that they create mayhem and anarchy to bring about the end of days.
Graeme Woods puts it quite succinctly, “the Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse”. It would do us all well to read the very well researched and extensively documented article by Graeme Wood in the Atlantic. Here is the link, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/.
The Jihadis brought back sexual slavery, crucifixion and persecution of gay people. None of these barbaric acts are random or conceived out of thin air.
They are replicating the actions of their ancestors (Salafs, hence the ‘Salafist’) from the tribal seventh century.
Fundamentally opposed to evolution of time, society and thought, the core being of their existence is denying the existence of modernity and humanity.
Simply because of this, we are skeptical that these people will come back to our world and live productive lives.
Extremist attacks were by returnees:
In France the Bataclan massacre and Charlie Hebdo murders were all conducted by returnees and acolytes of the returnees.
In the US, the latest terrorist act was enacted by an Uzbeki who immersed himself in the hate filled commentary from the Islamists and so called Islamic State.
Just to let you know, in Uzbekistan (a country with 90% Muslim population) he would not be allowed to sport the luxurious and unruly beard and ask for an ISIS flag while being looked after in a secured hospital room.
What we have in these people are death loving fanatics. In recent Bangladesh crackdown on militant hideouts, the suspected blew up their own children and themselves instead of capitulating to the law.
It seems that such people are convinced that they are doing God’s work with rewards waiting on the other side.
Now, once the Western citizens fighting for ISIS return to our societies, there will be greater possibility of lone wolf attacks, putting millions of law abiding Muslims in the West under long term suspicion, harassment plus ostracism.
Distorted interpretation of the scriptures:
The liberals, however, say an attempt must be made to de-radicalise.
Easier said than done!
Most Jihadists have firm beliefs on what they are doing and can rationalise the bloodshed and the oppressive norms which they imposed.
Chillingly, they will back their acts with lines from the Holy book, interpreted in their own way, to defend the violence, killings and the related abominations.
One major fall out is that distorted meanings of lines from the Holy Quran will be propagated via the Internet to severely impact impressionable minds across the globe.
This is why many deem de-radicalisation as ineffectual.
One suggestion is to put the returnees behind bars. This again is an expensive proposition.
How long would we want to put them in prison for? It costs from $33,000 to $168,000 per year, per person in an American prison. A simple math will show the costs will be staggering. In October 2017, the US Federal court sentenced Mohammed Jamal Khew is to 20 years in prison. That will cost the taxpayers something in the range of $2 million in today’s Dollars.
This guy went to Syria after some effort. He had encrypted email conversations with ISIS recruiters,traveled to Turkey and hitched a bus ride into Syria. His twitter handle was @iagreenbirdia.
Eventually, he had a change of heart or possibly decided to take back the war to US soil and, tried to finagle his way back to the US by lying to the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Now, back in the US and in detention, he will cost the American taxpayers some $2 million.
The scarred women and children:
One other unnerving question: what to do about ISIS women and the children?
Many of the children are brutalised and may never recover from the scars. Also not to be forgotten, the female consorts of ISIS fighters participated in the brutality and rape of Yazidi women.
We are also told that the ‘First Lady’ of ISIS escaped and, reportedly, lives in Texas now.
These women made a choice and wanted to be ISIS brides. As the situation looks hopeless, they want to get back to the cosy confines of their countries of origin or residence.
I personally feel that a lot of the returnees are actually beyond redemption. Although refusing re-entry to tolerant societies may seem like a valid proposal, in reality, preventing all of them from coming back is not tenable either.
As the ISIS is already looking at complete defeat in actual warfare, efforts need to be underway in almost all countries as to how they will deal with the many returnees, their wives and children.
Defeated in war, their beliefs will remain and that is where the main work needs to be done.
The fact is, facing a clearly defined adversary on the battlefield is easy, tackling them, even without weapons, on home soil within larger community, will prove to be more complex.
That is where the main battle lies – neutralising the festering bitterness plus vitriol inside.