Skip to main content
renu begum holds photo Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Why Western Countries Must Accept Returning Extremists

Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana have been denied reentry to the UK and the US, respectively, after having left to join the Islamic State. But, like it or not, they have a right to due process, which Western governments disregard at their peril.

OSLO/LONDON – Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old British woman who fled to Syria four years ago to marry an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter, wants to return home to the United Kingdom with her newborn son. Similarly, Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old American woman who joined ISIS at age 20, has requested re-entry to the United States with her young child. Both have been rejected. But their cases continue to fuel heated debate about the rights of would-be returnees – and, more broadly, the compatibility between Muslims and the West.

In Begum’s case, the UK government has decided to revoke her citizenship, even though British law prohibits it if doing so renders a person stateless. The UK Home Office has apparently concluded that Begum’s mother’s Bangladeshi passport provides a sufficiently credible excuse to ignore this rule. Begum reportedly plans to appeal the decision.

As for Muthana, the US has argued that she was never really a citizen at all. Yes, she was born in New Jersey and received a US passport before fleeing to join ISIS. But the US State Department contends that her father was a Yemeni diplomat, and children born to active diplomats in the US do not receive birthright citizenship. Muthana, however, was born months after her father left his position, which has become the basis of a lawsuit filed by her father against US President Donald Trump’s administration.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;
  1. roubini130_GettyImages_iphonehandstealingpiggybank Getty Images

    The Great Crypto Heist

    Nouriel Roubini

    Cryptocurrencies have given rise to an entire new criminal industry, comprising unregulated offshore exchanges, paid propagandists, and an army of scammers looking to fleece retail investors. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of rampant fraud and abuse, financial regulators and law-enforcement agencies remain asleep at the wheel.

  2. ghosh11_GettyImages_thiefworldmoneybag Getty Images

    The Exploitation Time Bomb

    Jayati Ghosh

    Worsening economic inequality in recent years is largely the result of policy choices that reflect the political influence and lobbying power of the rich. There is now a self-reinforcing pattern of high profits, low investment, and rising inequality – posing a threat not only to economic growth, but also to democracy.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.