‘ISIS Brides’ Spark Fierce Debate over Nationality and Terrorism

Stephanie Miller

Staff Writer

On Monday, March 4, former jihadist supporter Hoda Muthana’s request for case expedition was denied by the federal courts, the latest development in a case that has generated international discussion on the status of “ISIS brides,” reports USA Today.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton stated that Muthana’s lawyer failed to prove that the 24-year-old Alabama woman would face “irreparable harm” if the case remained on a normal litigation schedule. For now, Muthana will continue to reside under guard in a Syrian refugee camp, according to USA Today.

“I believe that America gives second chances,” Muthana said. “I want to return, and I’ll never come back to the Middle East. America can take my passport, and I wouldn’t mind.”

Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have spoken out against the possibility of Muthana’s return. The Washington Examiner reports that U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that Muthana should be prevented from reentering the U.S., and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would back Trump’s directive to keep her out, stating the America does not consider her a citizen.”

Muthana’s case is multifaceted. If she returns to the United States she will face trial on terrorism charges, and if her request is denied she will become a stateless person, unable to be tried in accordance to U.S. law.

The decision to allow her re-entry comes down to whether or not Muthana can be considered an American citizen at all. At the time of her birth in 1994, Muthana’s father was a Yemeni diplomat, which would exclude her from automatic U.S. citizenship, reports The Washington Examiner.

Her lawyers argue that Mr. Muthana left his post at the UN before her birth, while the prosecution currently holds that even if this is true, the fact that the federal government was not notified of his resignation until 1995 excludes Ms. Muthana from becoming a legal citizen.

Muthana is not the only “ISIS bride” whose status is up for consideration. In February, a 19-year old English-born schoolgirl named Shamima Begum was found in a refugee camp, having departed for Syria at age 15 to marry an ISIS fighter, reports The Washington Post.

The American Enterprise Institute further reports that Begum was subsequently stripped of her British citizenship, and although she is currently seeking a path back to the United Kingdom, she is mostly unrepentant of her time with the Islamic State.

Cases like Muthana and Begum’s highlight the still-undefined status of former Islamic State supporters seeking repatriation. While their respective ages at the time of recruitment and subsequent hardship do make a case for consideration, the American Enterprise Institute points out that anyone who willingly consents to be used by the Islamic State in any capacity can be defined as a terrorist “irrespective of whether or not she committed terrorist acts.”

Likewise, Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director of the George Washington University Program on Extremism, told the New York Times that there are “thousands of legitimate reasons to question the sincerity” of appeals like those of Ms. Muthana and Ms. Polman.

“The foreign women of the Islamic State, while often reduced to simplistic narratives about ‘jihadi brides,’ ‘brainwashing,’ and ‘online grooming,’ aided and abetted many of these atrocities and in some cases directly perpetrated them.”

On that note, Mr. Hughes did go on the record to say that the United States had an obligation to bring Muthana and women like her home… “albeit in handcuffs.”

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