No second chances for convicted terrorists, no matter what

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(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

Should convicted terrorists get a “second chance” in Canada?

We’re about to find out. A Mississauga, Ont., man is currently in the U.S., awaiting sentencing for his ISIS plot to mass murder civilians in New York City.

Kuwait-born Abdulrahman El-Bahnasawy’s lawyers have asked for a shortened sentence for the 20-year-old, so he can come back to Canada and undergo mental health treatment and so-called religious counselling.

El-Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey in 2016 after taking steps towards his ISIS-inspired plot to attack New York City landmarks. He told an undercover FBI agent he wanted it to be “the next 9/11.”

His lawyers tried to build the case that he was a drug-addicted loner and suffered from mental illness. Despite efforts to paint him as a victim, he was found to be mentally fit to stand trial and pleaded guilty to several terrorism charges.

El-Bahnasawy has now penned a 24-page handwritten letter that supposedly apologizes for his actions. However, the publicly-released letter doesn’t lend much confidence to the idea that this man is remorseful or reformed in any way.

Instead, it reads like a justification for jihad — the story of a victim whose parents pushed him towards fundamentalist Islam despite his desire to smoke pot and be a normal Canadian teenager.

He rambles on for 17 pages about his interest in drugs and his parent’s attempts to impose their religion upon him.

“My parents forced me to enrole (sic) in an Islamic school, I wasn’t Muslim and didn’t identify as Muslim, but it was better than Kuwait,” he wrote. It was at this Islamic school in Canada, he says, that he “realized Islam would fix all the problems in society or the world in general.”

He said he began to then reject “the rule of the people (or so called democracy and freedom)” and started down the path towards jihad.

El-Bahnasawy provides a propaganda-laden version of global affairs, where “the Jews and Christians” refuse to follow Islam, the Americans engage in a one-way war against Muslims and the Western media unfairly portrays ISIS as “barbaric” and “terrorists.”

This is what led him to “military jihad,” he says.

El-Bahnasawy’s story includes complaints about how he was treated in U.S. custody, and how sad he felt when American officers called him “wannabe ISIS.”

He finished his letter by stating his hope that Islam will govern the world, and encourages his judge to read the Qu’ran and convert to Islam. (“I hope to see you as a Muslim someday,” he writes.)

Meanwhile, his lawyers want us to believe that he is worthy of a second chance. A support letter written to the judge states that his family will help him to “be rehabilitated to be a productive member of society.” They sure didn’t do that the first time around.

Terrorists like El-Bahnasawy don’t deserve a second chance in Canada. And families like his don’t deserve a first chance either.

Too bad we live in a country where our Prime Minister not only believes in second chances, but also believes that former ISIS members can become an “extraordinarily powerful voice.”

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