“De-radicalizing” is no simple task.
In the final weeks of 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS, saying his country was “completely liberated” from the Islamist terrorist army.
The U.S.-led coalition decimated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, stopping its grisly campaign and regaining territory previously captured by ISIS militants.
Many ISIS fighters were killed on the battlefield, but others managed to flee, some into rural sanctuaries, others to neighboring terrorist havens and still others by infiltrating the West.
Tens of thousands of ISIS militants are now in Europe, some using European passports, others taking advantage of the chaos of open borders and mass migration.
The influx of these ISIS militants will have a destabilizing impact on a region already inundated with millions of displaced migrants and thousands of jihadists hiding amidst Europe’s Muslim communities, planning their next attacks.
Other ISIS fighters are coming to North America, albeit in smaller numbers.
Much like Europe, we are up against a similar challenge: a growing population of enemy citizens, taking advantage of our freedoms to further their own nefarious agenda.
Unlike traditional wars, the war against jihadist terrorists is happening through covert measures.
Islamists have managed to gain access to our citizenship, and they use its privileges — fundamental freedoms, legal rights, government programs — to advance their twisted ideology and undermine our free society.
Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s naïve assumption we can “de-radicalize” these fighters and “re-integrate” them into our society, the reality is far more complicated.
Those who travelled to Iraq and Syria did so because they were true believers, devoted to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
They believed it was their religious duty to join the Islamic Caliphate – a kingdom ruled by sharia law, led by a man considered the religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Mohammed.
When an al-Qaida offshoot in Iraq declared itself a “Caliphate” in the summer of 2014, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an estimated 100,000 Muslims from around the world travelled there to be a part of it. They believed al-Baghdadi was a descendent of their prophet, and the leader of all Muslims.
Some who joined Islamic State were militant fighters, others were ideological adherents.
The Islamic State was more than just an army, it was a society with its own governing institutions based on Islamic law.
Islamists — men and women, violent jihadists and non-violent devotees — joined ISIS because they believed in the Caliphate, they wanted to live in a society governed by sharia, at war with “non-believers”.
Now that many ISIS members are back in the West, we’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about the faith that drives these radicals.
We cannot ignore that Islam is an important aspect of Islamist terrorism.
Of course, most Muslims are not violent jihadists, but that doesn’t exonerate Islam from the terrorist equation.
Some interpretations of Islam, including those preferred by fundamentalists and extremists, call for Muslims to fight and kill to spread their faith.
With or without an official Caliphate, millions of Muslims around the world believe in this disturbing interpretation of Islam.
We must face the fact that some Muslims, including some in North America, believe their religion requires them to destroy our civilization.
“De-radicalizing” these zealots will be no simple task.