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“If Britons want to join Isis, let them go”

So argues Mary Dejevsky in the Guardian. Her piece could have done with a clearer separation of the several different issues involved; freedom of speech, freedom of movement, state surveillance of all travellers, targeted spying on individuals, and above all the question of what difference it makes when the potential recruits to ISIS are minors. Nonetheless I broadly agree – the British state should not seek to prevent adult citizens leaving the UK merely because it suspects they wish to become members of ISIS – or to kill members of ISIS. Whether state assistance in the form of weapons or subsidy should be available to the latter admirable group, or whether any of the former group seeking to return should be allowed to do so in exchange for cooperation with MI6, are questions that even the purest of libertarians might find worthy of debate.

The crimes of ISIS have been so flagrant and atrocious that the world is entitled to see any adult, male or female, volunteering to live under its standard (let alone bearing arms) as hostis humani generis and to exterminate them without any fuss about human rights – but wait till they get there. It is the burnings, beheadings and rapes that are the crimes, not getting on a plane to Turkey.

37 comments to “If Britons want to join Isis, let them go”

  • I agree, let them go. Hell, encourage them to go.

    Allowing them to come back is another matter altogether.

  • NickM

    Well, yes, Natalie. I was going to see the wonders of Istanbul with my wife. The idea of armed insurrection and stuff never occurred. A fine city although I expect the tender ministrations of Erdogan may have changed that. Which is a shame. And yes, as you say anyone who does what they do has no human rights.

  • I am totally with Bombadil. Hell it is a rare case where I would actually be in favour of taxpayer money being used for one way airline tickets. And if they are unwise enough to be where some bombs get dropped in Syria or Iraq… oh dear, how sad, never mind.

  • Add me to the chorus of agreement. As anybody who read the Atlantic article Johnathan linked to the other day will be aware, anyone inclined to go has already sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, if only in his own mind; there are images of people who’ve made it over there burning their passports. They are, to all intents and purposes, enemy aliens.

    And the only way ISIS can possibly pose any immediate threat to Britons is through people like this. It has no capability – as yet – to project force much beyond its “borders”. It’s absolutely insane to keep them here.

    Al-Qaeda’s a different kettle of fish. If someone linked to them wants to leave, it’s probably for training and he intends to return and cause us harm. It’s better to prevent that and keep a close eye on him. But there’s no suggestion of that with ISIS. They want to go and stay. Good. Let them.

  • Laird

    I’m certainly in agreement with Bombadil and the other commenters here. And this is why I have long called for the restoration of the ancient writ of outlawry. The proper method of dealing with any member of ISIS (or, for that matter, al Qaeda or Boko Haram) is summary execution by anyone with the ability.

  • Paul Marks

    If Islamists wish to leave Britain of their own free will – good.

  • Johnnydub

    I don’t know why we haven’t firebombed Raqqa in the same way we leveled Dresden….

  • Johnnydub,

    How about because many of the people in Raqqa are prisoners of ISIS and often literal slaves?

    It may be that eventually the situation will become so desperate that there will be no choice but to employ a military strategy that kills many of them even so – similar situations arose when liberating territory from the Nazis in World War II, and going further back, the anti-slavery expeditions carried out by the Royal Navy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often tragically involved the death of the slaves they sought to free. But it is a decision to be taken with the utmost reluctance.

  • Johnnydub

    Well from what I read the various factions within ISIL are undertaking even more insane internecine punishment executions. I don’t think the prisoners and slaves life expectancy is that high.

    What’s the alternative? There’s no prospect of either the west or the Arab states putting boots on the ground to capture Raqqa.

  • Laird

    Napalm works well, I’m told.

  • They probably just want a free cliteridectomy.

  • You mean they do offer them on the NHS yet? Raaaaaaaacist!

  • c777

    Let them go.
    Then bug their luggage.
    However once gone, they never come back.

  • Achillea

    I, too, am perfectly fine with turning the ‘Caliphate’ into a giant roach motel.

  • However once gone, they never come back.

    Easier said than done, I’m afraid. When someone travels to Turkey and back home, you have no way of knowing whether they crossed the border into Syria or Iraq and back into Turkey in the interim.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Is life in Britain so boring that some people look for excitement overseas? Or, your flag may be to blame. A good Muslim might have some difficulty following a flag composed of crosses. As a Christian, I like it, but I can understand why some religions might be off-put by it.

  • Alisa: that’s a good point. Rather puts me in mind of a scene from Inglorious Basterds.

    Perhaps what’s needed is a brand. No, not a product identity, like Pepsi. I mean an actual brand, iron and heat, to be used to mark those westerners we catch working with ISIS. That way they can’t take off their “uniforms” after they have had their fill of rape and murder.

  • Laird

    Is that true, Alisa? Doesn’t Turkey put stamps on the passport when someone enters or leaves the country? Or are you talking about people who cross the borders illegally, outside of regular border controls?

  • David

    Or, your flag may be to blame

    I served under a flag with the Union Flag with all its crosses in the upper hoist for 34 years. My father and grandfather before that and my son still. None of us have had any problems with our flag and my origins are obviously not Christian from the gravatar.

  • Mr Ed

    David, Nick is being light hearted in making his point. His mocking becomes tomorrow’s earnest point. A few years ago, a Muslim Traffic Warden, part of the Metropolitan Police, complained of religious discrimination by his being required to wear a badge with St Edward’s Crown on it as the cap badge. It probably amazed him that he lost his case, and the Powers That Were took him seriously enough to plan to implement his scheme.

  • Mr Ed

    Laird, Turkey certainly does stamp foreign visitors passports, and charges UK citizens a fee for a visa to enter, and has done so since around 1989. You used to be able to buy on arrival, UK Sterling cash only. They didn’t take Scottish notes either when I went in by train 20 odd years ago. Still, if you sneak out of Turkey, it saves another visa fee if you sneak back in as well as explaining anything, as if they cared.

    Today the Turkish Foreign Ministry is ‘making the right noises‘ about the Soviet War Crime of the sinking of the Struma, a ship of Jewish refugees from Romania. 768 dead, 1 survivor.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Not mocking, just curious- what do British Muslims feel about the current British flag?

  • thefrollickingmole

    “Certainly Mr Mohammed, we wont stop you leaving to fight for beardie weirdies state in Iraq”
    “Just place anything metallic or non grindable on the tray here and our patented “Jihadi be gone” conveyor will whisk you to your waiting destination”
    “Whats that? No I cant hear anything that sounds like an industrial meat mincer at the end of the coveyor”
    “Now Im sure you are imagining the excited sounds of pigs at the bottom of the destination chute Mr Mohammed, ha ha ha”.


    The problem with letting them leave is the misery they will inflict on some other poor sod before they hopefully pop their clogs. It would be immoral to allow thugs to head off and kill Kurds just so we can wash our hands of them.

  • David Bolton

    While being broadly in agreement with the sentiment that it would be handy if we get rid of problems from here, what if we end up with people returning, saying they made a mistake and then subsequently turn out to be fully trained in guns and explosives and they manage to recruit/radicalise and murder a few people in a local supermarket? Realistically can we expect the Intelligence services to track all returnees if the numbers have increased?

  • Barry Sheridan

    Comments on Strategy Page (http://www.strategypage.com/ a military blog) suggests some ISIS recruits end up deciding that life in the Caliphate is not for them once exposed to the barbarous behaviours of its fanatics. The trouble is that once there the recruit may well find the way out blocked by the attitudes of earnest ISIS adherents who are more than willing to kill said recruit should he or she try to leave. This information has apparently been culled from those who have escaped following service under the Black Flag of Death. Despite this cautionary note I feel those eager to go and fight for a future under ISIS should go, just don’t come back, and yes I do include deluded 16 year olds.

  • The latter, Laird. I understand the situation along those borders to be quite fluid currently, and with the Turkish government’s sympathies lying where they do, the movement across those borders is anyone’s guess.

    Also, what David Bolton said.

  • Barry, do you happen to have a link to the specific article there?

  • and then subsequently turn out to be fully trained in guns and explosives and they manage to recruit/radicalise and murder a few people in a local supermarket?

    You do not need to be “fully trained in guns and explosives” to murder people in a supermarket because it really is not hard to do. You just need to be sufficiently motivated. If they are the sort of people who might go join the Daesh Islamic State in the first place, they already have all the motivation they need and are already radicalised, probably in some Saudi funded Wahhabi school or Mosque that is functionally indistinguishable from Salafism. And that is all well before they set foot on the aircraft to Turkey en route to Syria.

  • Greg

    Let me get this straight: we are presumably talking about someone with a serious, declared intent to join ISIS, not someone simply wanting to travel. Why do we have to wait for them to join in on the beheadings, burnings, rape and lesser mayhem before stopping them? When someone tells me they’re going to kill me and starts loading their gun in front of me, I don’t wait to see what they’ll do before acting. There ARE speech crimes, e.g., declaring your intent to kill the US President. A declared intent to join ISIS seems to warrant action to prevent the crimes you have declared an intent to commit. Don’t get me wrong, I like the “wipe em out” sentiments expressed here, but let’s not add to their numbers and crimes first.

  • No Greg, I disagree. Talk is cheap and I do not trust the state even nearly enough for it to lock people up based on just talk. I mean next thing you know, they start passing laws about what they decide is ‘hate speech’.

    Oh, hang on…

    I think it needs something a bit more concrete than just words alone, there has to be at least some reasonable context and indication this is serious and actionable. Loading a gun or getting aggressively in your face or conspiring actively to Do Stuff with like minded loonies certainly passes that kind of test. Simply saying the world would be a better place if Obama (or anyone else) ate a 7.62mm should not be enough on its own. Mere trash talking should not be a crime.

    Joining the Daesh Islamic State however does eliminate any element of ‘reasonable doubt’.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Alisa, at the moment no, though I have read this statement several times over past months. Apologises.

  • That’s OK, I’ll look for it – thanks for the link to the main blog, regardless.

  • Australia seems to have no problem in revoking citizenship of Australian Muslims who are leaving to join ISIS. Perhaps Britain should ask how it’s being done?

    From my perspective, it’s a simple philosophical argument. By leaving Britain (or any host country) to fight for ISIS is a de facto transfer of allegiance to another state — whether “accredited” or not — and removal of citizenship rights followed by immediate deportation should be entirely up to the country concerned. Certainly, if there is proof that said person has in fact joined with the armed forces of another state, he or she should be prevented from returning. (Imagine a WWII British traitor demanding his citizenship rights after having served in the SS Britische Freikorps; would he be treated the same as today’s Muslim defectors are treated?)

    Actions have (or should have) consequences, and these infantile Muslim dreamers need to be shown what they are. Sadly, it’s not going to happen, and because of governmental pusillanimity, Western countries are going to reap this particular whirlwind in the near future.

  • Certainly, if there is proof that said person has in fact joined with the armed forces of another state, he or she should be prevented from returning.

    Well yeah, but how do you prove that?

  • Rob

    “Is it really so hard to discern the attractions of a journey, especially one with an altruistic and religious purpose, to girls who may have led very sheltered lives?”

    PEAK GUARDIAN has been reached! I never thought it possible.

  • Rich Rostrom

    ISTM that responsible countries have an obligation to prevent their citizens from invading other responsible countries (or joining an on-going invasion).

    The U.S. had problems in the 1800s with “filibusters” such as William Walker, and enacted laws against such activities. (These laws were not always enforced effectively, but they did a lot to constrain the would-be adventurers.)

    Cross-border volunteers have a mixed history in the 1900s. Many Americans served in Allied forces before 1917, such as the famous Lafayette Escadrille. The Spanish Republic had its “International Brigades”. A Hungarian volunteer force fought for Finland in 1939-1940. During WW II, Americans volunteered for the Eagle Squadrons of the RAF; tens of thousands of Irishmen volunteered for HM forces. Spanish volunteers formed the Wehrmacht’s Blue Division on the Eastern Front.

    All of these incidents had political consequences. (Well, not the Hungarians.) Some of these consequences were freely accepted by the home governments, or winked at. In those cases, the home countries sometimes had problems resulting. Britain has normal relations with Iraq; those relations would be disrupted if Britain allows Britons to conduct private warfare against Iraq.

    I’ll make one last point. If citizens of a country are supplying arms to one side in a war, their government is implicated – especially if the recipients are not a lawful state. Manpower is as much a component of military force as arms. If Britain (or the U.S.) should allow men to go join ISIS, should they also allow shipments of arms to ISIS?

  • Mr Ed

    Meanwhile, an atheist is hacked to death with knives in the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh.