What’s at stake for Islamic State (IS) affiliates? Increasingly these days, it’s their passports and homes.
In the wake of the deadly Paris attacks of Nov. 13, in which several perpetrators were French and Belgian nationals, governments around the world are cracking down on terrorism by threatening to revoke the citizenship of anyone directly linked to IS or other militant groups.
Joining French President Francois Hollande and leaders in Belgium, Norway, Australia, and Britain, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced policy changes that would limit the mobility of potential terrorists by stripping them of their passports and dual citizenships.
“Whoever joins ISIS will not be an Israeli citizen. And if he leaves the borders of the state, he will not return,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Sunday. “I think this lesson is becoming increasingly clear throughout the international arena, and it is fitting that we lead this effort as well.”
While no known IS attacks have been carried out on Israeli soil, Netanyahu’s announcement came on the heels of a national study that revealed 17 percent of the country’s Arabs feel sympathetic to IS, disagreeing with the statement, “Islamic State is an extremist terrorist organization and that they, as Arabs, felt ashamed of it.”
“This is a very telling finding,” the study’s researcher, Sammy Smooha, a professor at the University of Haifa, told the Jerusalem Post.
“Why, because all Arab political parties and the Islamic Movement’s two factions are against Islamic State, so this means a segment of the Arab public does not agree with the consensus against Islamic State.”
Meanwhile in Europe, as Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times reports, “states are already dealing with the reality of radicalized citizens returning from Syria and other jihadist venues.”
Repealing the European citizenship of those who have been radicalized or trained by Islamic extremists abroad is a preemptive tactic aimed at preventing future terror attacks on European soil.
Data from the respective national security agencies of Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands indicate that 2,731 citizens of these countries had gone to Syria or Iraq for terrorist training, but more than a third – or 1,012 – returned to their European home states afterward.
Several among the attackers who killed at least 130 people in Paris earlier this month were French natives. But critics say policies which would strip people of their citizenship endanger civil liberties, bestowing an exorbitant amount of power to authorities to monitor and deport suspects without channels of judiciary challenge.
Some experts suggest that restraints on IS recruits’ international movement only addresses part of the problem.
Peter Bergen, co-author of the New America report, “ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism,” told the German Deutsche Welle news network that there are domestic reasons that IS appeals to Western Muslims. For instance, in France, Muslims, who make up just eight percent of the population, comprise about 70 percent of prisoners.
The failure of assimilation is a major concern, he said, adding that Muslims “are highly disadvantaged, criminalized, ghettoized."