Canada must bring home its own from the ruins of Islamic State

Almost completely silent on the challenges of successful prosecution. And there is a different in terms of letting them return to Canada and actively facilitating their return:

I despise Daesh (the Islamic State group) and its ilk. In fact, I have spent a better part of my life challenging their religious  interpretations and practices.

Yet, I believe that Ottawa must repatriate Canadians who answered the Daesh call, because this is the right thing to do if we truly believe in human rights and constitutional principles.

For children’s sake

We must learn from the recent death of Jarrar, the newborn son of British-born Shamima Begum, who left the UK as a 15-year-old. The baby died after London revoked Shamima’s citizenship and left them both to ostensibly stew in her hate.

Under British law, Shamima Begum was a child when she left. Now, a British baby is dead for his parents’ sins. As British MP Anna Soubry wrote, the UK breached its duty to Jarrar.

There are at least 32 Canadians being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

The former Conservative MP rightfully argued that Shamima should have been brought to the UK, questioned, and had the law books thrown at her while her son should have been given the “protection and the support that a civilised country provides for all its children.”

Kurdish authorities say that 5,000 former alleged IS fighters and their families are being held in makeshift prisons in Iraq.

This includes 1,300 children. Russia repatriated 27 children in February. France has agreed to repatriate around 130 fighters and their families.

Belgians, who composed the largest number of Caliphate fighters per capita, are not feeling particularly welcome. Late last year, going against public opinion, a Belgian court ruled that the government must repatriate its citizens.

In a principled and courageous decision, the Solomonic judge ruled that bringing the children without their mothers – who were convicted in absentia – would violate their human rights. The judge also imposed a daily penalty of 5,000 euros per child against the government until they were returned.

Belgium’s migration secretary said: “We won’t punish young children for their parents’ misdeeds. They have not chosen the Islamic State.”

Unfortunately, an appellate court overturned the decision a few weeks ago and now 160 Belgian children are in limbo.

A mature debate

Canadian Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says the government has not decided what to do.

Canada needs to act before we read about Canadian children dying in Syrian camps.

Rather than having a mature  debate about bringing IS members to justice, our politicians appear to be gauging the public mood rather than stepping up

According to CBC, there are at least 32 Canadians being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Dr Alexandra Bain of the Canadian group Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE) claims that more than half of those held in Syria are under the age of five.

Rather than having a mature and constitutionally rooted debate about bringing Daesh members to justice and dealing with non-combatants as well as women and children, our politicians appear to be guaging the public mood rather than stepping up.

Leadership may require that you sometimes stand up to mobocracy (the whims of the majority) and it always means standing up for constitutionally entrenched rights – even for the detested.

Why bring them back?

Rather than following the examples set by Macedonia, Russia, France, etc, Canada caved into British “arm-twisting” and breached a deal with Kurdish authorities to repatriate Canadian citizens, according to a report by the Guardian.

These individuals went there for reasons ranging from ideological affinity, out of a sense of religious obligation, due to being brainwashed, the promise of adventure, the opportunity to create an Islamic utopia, out of empathy to relieve the suffering of others, while others were duped, forced or taken against their will.

Why should we bring them back?

First, as citizens, they have a right to come back to Canada. Though this does not impose an obligation on Ottawa to take proactive steps to bring back adults, a strong argument can be made that there is a mandatory duty owed to Canadian children.

Indeed, under the common law, our government through the courts have the parens patraie jurisdiction to look out for the best interest and welfare of our children. This is reason alone.

Setting a precedent

Second, contrary to what many people want, under international law we can’t just watch as these people are executed without due process, or held to rot even as evil as they are. Otherwise, as President Trump said correctly, if they are left alone they may continue to create havoc elsewhere.

We must set a precedent and send out a message to any of our citizens who may contemplate such actions in the future that there are consequences for such actions. This is best done by putting those who are culpable on trial.

Leaving Canada to participate in a terror group is an offence under the criminal code punishable to a term of up to 10 years. Indeed, as General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British army, told the Guardian about British fighters:

“They have to be put through due process and imprisoned if that is the right thing to do,” he said. “But I think it is also important that we treat them fairly with justice and tempered with a bit of mercy as well because I think the way we treat them may well have important significance for the way other people view our society.

“We don’t want to see others radicalised and going off overseas in the future. How we treat these people coming back – fairly but firmly – we’ve got to get it right.”

We have failed

Third, most of these individuals were born “here” and more importantly were radicalised “here” not “there”. We bear part of the responsibility because we – as a society – and our institutions failed in not preventing them from being radicalised and in the case of many women from being groomed as brides.

It is tempting to dehumanise them and easy to “other” them, but let us not forget that we extend full due process rights even to paedophiles, mass murderers and serial killers.

Fourth, some of these individuals may serve as resources to fight radicalisation after they have been de-radicalised, after serving time, if deserved.

As argued in a New York Times op-ed by Bryant Neal Vinas, America’s first Al-Qaeda fighter, these returning fighters “can be a strategic asset” to fight radicalisation if we play it right.

Fifth, western nations, including Canada, pursue criminals to the far corners of the world using extradition treaties and other means. Indeed, we have even engaged in extraordinary rendition and participated in torture of our own citizens when we thought it was necessary. Yet, now it’s too difficult to pursue these people?

Of course, it would be disingenuous to argue that traitors who engage in terrorism should be treated the same as other criminals, because the state interests are especially compelling. At the same time, the values engaged in this context – equality, freedom of speech, religion, and association – make it important that we tread in a firm but cautious manner.

It is high time that we engage in reasoned, nuanced and considered debate in a manner consistent with our well-established values, including justice, fairness and compassion.

We cannot base our decisions on emotion, populist fear, hatred or our whims, because then we are no better than them.

Source: Canada must bring home its own from the ruins of Islamic State

From ISIS-Lands to the Netherlands: Jihadists Try to Get the Press to Help Them Come Home

Thoughtful discussion of some of the issues with respect to returning Daesh  and other fighters:

Now that the self-proclaimed caliphate of the so-called Islamic State is falling apart in Syria and Iraq, many European jihadists are looking for ways to come home—and some of the Dutch ones have been reaching out to the media, hoping it will save their lives.

Just last week two fighters contacted TV shows in the Netherlands to announce their return to Dutch soil, a third contacted the police.

The grim irony of such a ploy is obvious. Many would-be holy warriors from European backgrounds have been associated with organizations that took journalists hostage, ransomed some, tortured and beheaded others. When they thought their groups were on a roll, jihadists bragged to their Western enemies “we love death as you love life.” And all too many times in France, Britain, Belgium, and Germany they have slaughtered innocents by the score.

But the three from the Netherlands are part of a group of 10 presumed jihadists who have criminal court cases pending against them. Dutch public prosecutors believe most of them are still to be found in what’s left of ISIS-land. After a Rotterdam court recently decided they could be present at their hearing, their trial was postponed until January 2018, allowing them time to return.

A 22-year-old Dutch-Moroccan rapper known to the court as Marouane B. is one of the potential returnees. He says he is en route back to the Netherlands and a few days ago posted a rap about his intended return, singing, “I will come back one day, mama, don’t worry… I am fleeing.” (The video has since been taken down.)

In a phone call to Dutch News RTL, Marouane refused to say whether he is affiliated with ISIS or not. “I had expected to be a change factor in the civil war by fighting [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad,” he said. “That didn’t succeed, because the world is siding with Assad, at least that’s what it looks like from here, and I always had the intention of returning after the war.”

In a similar interview, a Dutch postman turned Islamic convert turned Islamist, Victor Droste, spoke to the Dutch TV news program 1 Vandaag via Skype. Droste admitted he’d been at the front, but refused to say whether he had been fighting. He fervently denied being part of ISIS, but he looked the part, and had been publicly advocating his support for Sharia and Islamism in the year before he left the Netherlands in 2013.

The Dutch government made conscientious attempts to inform the alleged jihadists about the trial via social media like Facebook and through their relatives. The efforts didn’t fail, but they are just the beginning of awkward attempts to address what could be an enormous problem.

An estimated 300 Dutch men, women, and children are known to have traveled to the Middle East to join the ranks of various jihadist organizations, including ISIS.

European Union counterterrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has warned that the EU as a whole will be hard-pressed to deal with some 1,500 to 2,000 fighters who may try to return as ISIS is driven out of its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa (PDF).

Different countries are addressing the problem in different ways. According to French intelligence sources, Paris has deployed special operations forces on the ground in Syria to hunt down and kill French jihadists who could pose a threat if they return.

The latest figures from the National Dutch Terrorism Prevention Coordinator (NCTV) tell us that as of June this year, 190 who left the Netherlands managed to join ISIS, and 50 returned. Some, at least 45 jihadists, died. But most of the survivors find themselves now cornered in a flailing wannabe state, a far cry from the heroic caliphate they had been dreaming of, and death has proved less appealing when it becomes palpably real.

With the jihadists’ stories trickling in, the Dutch security services try to gauge the security risk involved if they return. Even if the men are found not guilty of participation in war crimes and/or membership of a terrorist organization, which is unlikely, they are still suffering from PTSD. Letting them loose on the society they rejected would be risky business, and not just for the Netherlands.

“We have a responsibility toward other countries, too,” says Daan Weggemans, a terrorism expert attached to Leiden University who also serves as an expert witness in terrorism court cases. “Our focus tends to be on Dutch returning jihadists, but security is all about the broader picture. The idea that Dutch jihadists would only return to the Netherlands is not right.”

Jihadists are rarely stopped by borders, and certainly not by the open frontiers on the European continent, where they can take advantage of lax security in one place to stage attacks in another.

Exchanging information among security services is crucial, says Weggemans, but there are holes. Libya, for instance, is a major route for people pouring into Europe, but hardly keeps track of who is who, and there is considerable traffic back and forth. The bomber who wrought such carnage at a teen concert in Manchester, U.K., earlier this year was a Briton with extensive ties to family—and to ISIS—in Libya.

Foreigners who would come to the Netherlands with a stream of refugees might be a risk, says Weggemans, but so are jihadists who are in touch with, say, the nephew of a friend, and end up virtually invisible to authorities in an apartment here. “Those are the returnees that I worry about,” he says.

Islamist men returning from war are a major security risk. But then what are we to do with returning wives and children? After a serious amount of brainwashing they are hardly reliable candidates for free-spirited, democratic society. Differently put, how is any person who has actively supported people who put severed heads on spikes in town squares or gays being thrown off tall buildings going to deal with, say, two men kissing in the street in Amsterdam? Or mini skirts, or the notion of equal rights for women, for that matter?

Making policy on returning children poses yet another challenge. An estimated 80 children with a Dutch background are in Syria and Iraq, with ISIS or other jihadist groups, according to the April report of the Dutch National Security Service. Fifty percent are 9 years old or older and half of them are boys.

“With the minors there is also a big element of concern,” Weggemans explains. “They could have seen or done terrible things and were possibly trained a certain way. We know quite a bit about it and such information is very important if you start to help these children… You know that some were too young to be involved, others were educated there, girls were veiled, boys in training camps. We have to think about what we do when kids come back.”

So far, the Netherlands has been spared terrorist attacks. That may in part be because of internal policy, our relative insignificance, or dumb luck. Nobody knows precisely why. But the quiet to date holds no promise for the future. As in every other country, an attack on Dutch soil could happen any moment.

“I know it’s been said many times before, but we have to acknowledge that we won’t be able to prevent all attacks.” Weggemans tells The Daily Beast. Even if you have very active security services, you simply can’t keep track of everyone.

But the challenge of the moment is what to do with those who identify themselves and ask to be treated with mercy in a liberal society after the failure of the fanatical caliphate they longed to establish.

Source: From ISIS-Lands to the Netherlands: Jihadists Try to Get the Press to Help Them Come Home

ISIS Targets American Imams for Believing Muslims Can Thrive in U.S. – Also in Canada

Does undermine the American right’s characterization of American Muslims:

Three American imams got put on ISIS’s hit list for promoting the idea that Islam and the West can coexist.

The terrorist group’s latest issue of propaganda Dabiq attempts to theologically justify an attack on the religious leaders in an article titled “Kill the Imams of Kufr in the West.” The men are worse than hypocrites, ISIS says, because they say Muslims can thrive in America.

“The person who calls himself a ‘Muslim’ but unapologetically commits blatant kufr [disbelief] is not a munafiq [hypocrite], as some mistakenly claim. Rather, he is a murtadd [apostate],” Dabiq claims.

The Daily Beast will identify two of the Americans with pseudonyms because of the direct threats on their lives. A third, who gave The Daily Beast permission to use his name, responded with dark humor.

“Nothing like a death threat with a danish and a latte in the morning,” Suhaib Webb told The Daily Beast.

This is the first time ISIS has put out a direct hit on U.S. imams.

Webb is treated with contempt by jihadists who call him “the joke of al-Azhar,” a reference to his time at the esteemed Islamic university in Egypt.

“I mean, it’s certainly concerning,” he said, adding that he’s been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security about the threat. “They maybe want to brief me on things to look for, to be cautious of,” he said.

The irony of being on the most extremist group’s hit list isn’t lost on Webb, who for years has been accused of Islamic extremism by the far right in America.

“In a way, [Dabiq]’s attacking what many of us think makes our country awesome. And at the same time, it repudiates people on the right,” he said. “If people like myself are radical extremists, then why is ISIS putting a death threat on us?”

Meanwhile in Canada:

Just days after celebrating cultural bridges, a Toronto imam has been targeted in a Daesh hit list.

The self-declared Islamic State called out Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick along with other Muslims in the West, urging followers to kill them for speaking out against the group and betraying their interpretation of Islam.

Quick works with the Canadian Council of Imams, which hosted its first annual dinner on Monday night, honouring political leaders and community members.

“It was a really good vibration that came out of that meeting, a lot of unity between people of different faiths,” Quick told the Star.

“So here comes the devil, as we would say, screaming out against us the next day.”

Quick first learned of the threat on Wednesday from a fellow imam in the council, but though he says he has contacted law enforcement and is taking precautions, he will not be intimidated.

“I will continue to do what I have to do,” he said. “Putting my trust in God. This is what Muslims do when they find themselves in difficulty, and continue on to do what’s right.”

Michael Zekulin, a terrorism researcher at the University of Calgary, says the threat is typical of Daesh’s propaganda tactics, but not necessarily legitimate.

Daesh has implored its followers to go after others in the past, he says, like Calgary-based cleric Syed Soharwardy and UFC fighter Tim Kennedy.

“It never resonated,” Zekulin said. “It’s not something you dismiss and laugh off, but at the same time I’m not sure that simply because they mentioned this individual all of a sudden (he) is a serious immediate target.”

He says more than anything the threat demonstrates the sophisticated, extensive nature of Daesh’s communication network.

What ISIS songs reveal about the group’s evolution

Another side of Daesh/ISIS’ propaganda and recruitment strategy:

After this month’s attacks in Paris, ISIS released an audio recording celebrating the attacks and taking responsibility for them. The RCMP is still investigating the recording to determine whether the voice on the recording belongs to a Canadian. Some linguists are convinced it does, and that the speech patterns suggest he is from Ontario. But it’s still not clear whose voice is on that recording.

What we do know is that the audio statement begins with an acapella song that’s as hooky as any pop song, and it plays throughout the five and a half minute recording.

The song takes the form of a traditional Islamic holy chant, called a “nasheed”. These songs have become key to the ISIS propaganda machine. They’re the soundtrack to the shocking execution videos, they’re blasted from cellphones on the battlefield and now, they’re showing up more and more in English.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi,fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum, says the Islamic State is one of the leading producers – if not the­ leading producer – of jihadi nasheeds today.

Day 6 asked him to  listen to the music in ISIS’ latest audio recording following the Paris attacks, and to compare it to other jihadi songs that ISIS has produced.

“My immediate thoughts on that nasheed is the language used: English,” says Al-Tamimi. He says the Islamic State has recently branched out into producing nasheeds in other languages, including English, French, German and even Hindi and Uyghur to reach  out to non-Arabic foreigners to join the Islamic State.

“This one  is what you could call one of the more generic nasheeds in terms of content, referring to conceptions of martyrdom and virgins of paradise promised for those who die in the cause of jihad,” says Al-Tamimi.

And he says the catchiness of the songs serves a strategic purpose. “In regards to the melodies of nasheeds being catchy, it can help subconsciously imbibe the nasheed into your mind. The catchiness of the nasheed will help reinforce the messaging and indoctrination,” says Al-Tamimi.

Source: What ISIS songs reveal about the group’s evolution – Home | Day 6 | CBC Radio