Should US allow ISIS bride to return home -- and face the consequences?

Nearly five years after slipping out of the US to join ISIS, Hoda Muthana wants to come home again to Alabama with the baby she had as the wife of a jihadi fighter. Her family paints her as a victim, a “vulnerable young woman” who wants to “be accountable for her mistake” and get on with a normal life. As with the stories of other young women, that argument has some truth to it — but it’s not the whole truth:

The lawyer for Hoda Muthana, the US woman who fled Islamic State and now wants to return home, has called for her to be a voice of a deradicalisation programme that dissuades others from joining the terror group and counters online manipulation. …

The US government has shown no interest in her case, nor in her 18-month-old son, whom she had with a now dead Tunisian fighter. Shibly, however, suggests she could be used to warn others not to follow her path.

“Having somebody like Hoda work through the legal system and with the United States government to publicly speak out against the kind of hatred and manipulation that groups like this engage in would be a very useful tool to help protect other vulnerable individuals from being taken advantage of.

“When she left, we held training at her local mosque to emphasise just how dangerous, misguided and wrong groups like [Isis] are. The family is relieved that at last she has recognised the error of her ways. That happened quite some time ago, but it’s been very dangerous for her to escape.”

Her return is inevitable anyway. For one thing, she’s a US citizen, which means we are the ultimate custodian of Muthana. Donald Trump made that much clear to our European allies in his exhortation to take back the captured jihadis from the collapse of ISIS in Syria. One way or another, Muthana’s coming back to the US. Her family wants her to return with minimal consequences, which is certainly understandable from their point of view. That’s why Shibley is promoting the idea of her value as a counterweight to extremists within the American Muslim communities.

Unfortunately that wouldn’t be much of a change for Muthana, who wasn’t exactly shy about speaking out as a member of the caliphate too. In 2015, Muthana attempted to foment terrorist attacks in the US by encouraging people on Twitter to “Go on drive-bys spill all of their blood.” Muthana could face as many as sixty years in federal prison for her participation in and support of terrorism, the New York Post noted yesterday:

Manhattan defense lawyer Michael Bachrach, who helped represent the first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in a civilian court, said Muthana “can certainly be charged with attempted material support of terrorism, material support of terrorism, as well as a conspiracy count.”

“With each count it could be a 15- to 20-year max, which could run consecutively,” he added, referring to her potential prison sentence.

Manhattan defense lawyer Jeffrey Hoffman said Muthana’s “exhortations to drive into crowds to kill people” could also lead the feds to charge her with inciting to riot. …

“If I were advising her, I’d tell her coming back to the United States may be risky for her,” former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said.

As it should be. The US has sent women to prison for just attempting to join ISIS. Shannon Maureen Conley got four years in 2015 in part because the judge wanted to make sure he set a term that “will cause others to stop.” Add in Muthana’s adult age at the time of her joining ISIS (19) and her attempts to foment terrorism and murder in the US afterward, simply pledging to become a high-school counselor shouldn’t cut it.

Muthana committed real crimes as an adult, brainwashing or not. She needs to be held accountable, as should all jihadis who betrayed their countries by joining those who wished to destroy it. That may not mean 60 years in prison, but it shouldn’t mean going on a speaking tour under the banner I Was A Teenage ISIS Bride either.