Only the best of the West will bring down the terrorists
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We cannot reduce the rate of global terrorism only by killing and droning. Violence breeds more violence. Against the barbarity of jihadist ferocity in Syria and Iraq, we must deploy the best of the West: capturing terrorists, the rule of law, the right to a fair trial, and meting out the harshest sentences for treason. If we become like them and kill carte blanch, what is it that we defend? How are we more civilised? By putting foreign fighters on trial in Britain, we also send a message to the many British Muslim activists who linger in an underworld of conspiracy theories.

The British government is wrong, therefore, to try and disown the “Jihadi beatles” – two of whom were recently captured in Syria – and outsource them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague or Guantanamo Bay. Very few convictions occur in the Hague and Guantanamo Bay is a moral aberration. As radicalisation rises in Britain (30,000 extremist Muslims are being watched by the government) and foreign conflicts draw them in, moreover, we need a robust system of legal precedents to deal with a new generation of criminal traitors. There are many more to come.

British extremists who travelled to Iraq and Syria and pledged allegiance to Isis should face charges of treason in Britain. They took up arms against their own armed forces, and killed and tortured British journalists.

It is tempting to accept the argument that they deserve local justice in Iraq or even shariah punishment. But becoming vindictive and vengeful is to be blinded by anger. We must seek justice and uphold the virtues of civilisation. This is a long war and we need our judges to adapt to new realities, but within our tradition of liberty and laws. The 1351 Treason Act is still on our books.

Using bureaucratic loopholes of revoking the citizenship of jihadists might be tactically useful, but it undermines the strategic significance of ensuring that Western citizens have rights and also responsibilities. It is by winning the argument that liberty and the rule of law are superior to the rule of a one-man, tyrannical caliphate that we ultimately win this war of ideas.

The “Jihadi beatles” were radicalised in Britain. For their accents and British ways, they were given the nicknames of John, George, Ringo and Paul by their captives. Thousands more are in their mould in our cities, communities and campuses.

In a 2016 survey of 3,000 British Muslims, only 4 per cent said that the 9/11was the work of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Putting jihadists on trial helps to challenge this subculture of conspiracy theories and blame games. Among many extremist Muslim activists, Isis is short for “Israeli Secret Intelligence Service”.

Among many Muslim leaders, blaming America for the rise of Isis is easier than accepting that there is a serious problem of religious radicalism among many Muslims. As evidence, they cite Donald Trump’s declaration that President Obama was “the founder of Isis”. Trump’s subsequent claim of sarcasm is conveniently forgotten. It is this underworld of high emotions that needs to change to stop the surge of fanaticism. Putting returning jihadists on trial exposes these traitors for their crimes and helps challenge the narrative amid radical activists and their followers.

Often, during trials, jihadists can display remorse and seek forgiveness. In Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, we have seen leading jihadists condemn their own activities in public. There is no greater asset at our disposal than to use jihadists to denounce their destructive ways in court, or thereafter. This forces other extremists to question their own pathways and many lose confidence in their worldview.

The strongest witnesses against jihadists will be their own family members, mosque imams, and usually other Muslims who have suffered from jihadist violence. The myth of the glory of an Isis caliphate needs to be exposed and destroyed. Their enslavement of children and women, their rape, mass murder and execution of dissenting Muslims cannot be forgotten. Trials in Britain help civilisation and justice prevail over the barbarity of Isis.

The jihadists want to bring down the West. We cannot become their indirect accomplices by abandoning the rule of law in the name of security.

By Ed Husain
Sunday Telegraph

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