David Davis writes in the Mail on Sunday calling for ISIS fighters to be stripped of their citizenship
As published in The Mail on Sunday
Asbos for terrorists? No, lets tell them never to come back
British governments have historically taken an approach to the so-called ‘war on terror’ that has been distinctly un-British – crude, heavy-handed, careless of innocent people’s liberties, and as a result often counterproductive.
Yet our response to the flood of British Muslims that has left these shores to fight in Syria and subsequently Iraq for an Islamic caliphate has been tentative, uncertain, almost limp.
The brutal, ritualised public murder of James Foley has crystallised the psychopathic nature of what these young Britons have signed up to and in some cases actively promoted.
The British intelligence agencies presumably knew what was going on. Yet the Home Secretary’s response as recently as yesterday seemed lacking in both focus and urgency. Asbos for terrorists? It is hard to imagine IS killers quaking in their boots over that.
So why have we done so little so far? We should target the young men who have rushed to take up arms on behalf of IS, an organisation that purports to be a state – and a hostile one at that. It is astonishing to me that this action alone is viewed as legal, let alone what they do once there.
Imagine that in my youth during the Cold War, I had gone off to join the Soviet Army with the intent of taking action against NATO, or that my father had gone to join the Nazis in the Second World War. Those actions would quite properly have been viewed as treason.
What these young men have done is worse. Remember that in this day and age even conventional ‘legal’ wars are essentially industrialised murder.
Civil wars, and the sort of sectarian conflict we are seeing in Iraq and Syria, are even worse, littered with the self-righteous sadism that we saw in the death of James Foley. They are wars without rules. And be clear. The barbarism we saw in the murder of Foley has been replicated time and again against thousands of innocent Iraqis and Syrians. Beheadings, crucifixions, burials alive have all been carried out against people guilty of no crime, largely for the purpose of feeding the IS propaganda machine.
These young men are going to Syria to take part in large-scale murder for an organisation with a $2 billion income from extortion, blackmail and theft.
So if it is not illegal already – hard to believe – let us make it so. Going abroad to fight and kill for a cause hostile to Britain and its NATO allies should be against British law and should carry a very heavy sentence. But I would go further than that. Since these young men are in effect swearing allegiance to a hostile state, they should all forfeit their British citizenship – not just those who are dual nationals. Since this is an incredibly serious penalty, it should be done only after a proper public trial carrying all the public seriousness and opprobrium of a murder trial, because in many cases that is what it would be.
As the Home Secretary reiterated yesterday, lawyers would say you cannot render someone stateless. Perhaps, perhaps not. Whitehall lawyers have been wrong before. Democracies have a right to defend themselves.
IS is claiming to be a state. They can issue these young men with Islamic State passports if they so wish. It is not our problem that they would have trouble getting into any civilised country with them. Neither will it be our problem any more if ISIL ceases to exist.
We must face head-on the paradox that these men can burn their British passports on TV and deny their legal allegiance to Britain, yet our nation cannot say to them, in effect: ‘OK, never come back.’
The result would be that these young men would suddenly find their trip to Syria is no longer a short violent holiday but a life sentence to the lifestyle they claim to espouse, complete with Sharia law and a desert climate. We are at a moment of decision. We can change or clarify British law to make the evil actions of these young men illegal and to make the penalty fit the crime: expulsion from the society they claim to reject.
We can do this in British courts and in doing so proclaim to the world that we are a tolerant society, but that we will not tolerate sadism and murder in the name of religion.
Or we can fail to grasp the nettle, let some of these murderers back and try to deal with the subsequent problems. This will allow some of these men to put their new ‘skills’ to further ill use, with potentially terrible consequences for our countrymen, resulting in ethnic suspicion and the social poison that will flow from that.