Former ISIS Member’s Return Sparks Debate


Courtesy of Lebanon News

After joining ISIS, Hoda Muthana wants to come home.

Brian McCarthy, Sentry Staff Reporter

Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old woman originally from Alabama, is suing the United States for her citizenship and her 18-month-old son’s. Her petition for citizenship is controversial given that she was a former member of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In 2014, at the height of ISIS’s power, Muthana dropped out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham to buy a plane ticket to Turkey. Upon arriving, she joined the infamous terrorist organization.

On her now-deactivated Twitter account, she called for the death of Americans in grisly fashion. Her status as college student-turned-Islamic terrorist allowed her to gain notoriety from the media and the US government.

In 2016, Muthana burned her US passport in a photo posted on her Twitter account. Around the same time, the Obama administration declared that not only was her passport revoked, but it was never valid to begin with because she was never a US citizen.

Muthana’s father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, came to US in 1990 as a Yemeni diplomat. Muthana’s father and his family were afforded diplomatic immunity, meaning that they were under the jurisdiction of their home country. However, the question is around when her father’s service as a diplomat ended.

Diplomatic immunity refers to the legal status of diplomats in foreign countries. It states that diplomats in foreign countries are in the jurisdiction of their home country, not the country they are in. This extends to family members of the diplomat. In Muthana’s case, if she was born while her father was still a diplomat, then she would be considered a citizen of Yemen.

Muthana was born on October 28, 1994 in Hackensack, New Jersey. According to her father’s lawyers, his service as a diplomat ended on June 2, 1994. However, US records show that Muthana’s termination as a diplomat was not official until February 6, 1995.

The true date of Muthana’s termination determines everything in this case. If Muthana was born before her father lost his job as a diplomat, then she is not a US citizen, but rather a Yemeni one. However, if her father lost his job after she was born, then she is a US citizen.

According to the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, anyone born on US soil is automatically a US citizen. However, an exception exists for children of foreign diplomats, who are considered to be citizens of their home country. If Muthana was born after her father lost his job as a diplomat, then she would be a citizen of the US by way of birthright citizenship.

It was also around August 2017 that Muthana gave birth to a son. Her son was not born in the US, so birthright citizenship does not apply to him. However, if Muthana is deemed to be a citizen, then her son would automatically gain citizenship as well.

If Muthana and her lawyers are successful, she would most likely be allowed back into the country. There is not much precedent for the US revoking citizenship, even in cases like this. According to the Constitution, the only way that one could lose his citizenship is to pledge allegiance to a foreign power, an act more commonly referred to as treason. To be charged with treason, you also need two witnesses to testify, which may be difficult given the nature of this case.

If Muthana was to be allowed back into the US, she would no doubt face significant punishment from the legal system. For comparison, a former US soldier named Ikaika Erik Kang received a 25-year prison sentence for attempting to provide material support to ISIS. His punishment will likely be taken into consideration when determining Muthana’s punishment.

There is also precedent for former ISIS fighters returning to their home countries- albeit in Europe. Countries like France, Germany and Great Britain have all allowed fighters back into their country for immediate prosecution. This practice is considered less risky than denying their entry. If they are allowed into the country, they can at least face prosecution and a lengthy jail sentence. If they are denied, they will like remain in the Middle East, where they can rejoin ISIS or another militant group.

Any argument for Muthana’s repatriation into the US would have to be centered around what she actually did while she was with ISIS. Her lawyers will likely make the argument that she did not commit crimes will she was with the group. However, it is widely accepted that just being in the group is grounds for prosecution. When someone from a Western nation (be it the US or anywhere else) joins ISIS, it is considered a propaganda victory for the group.

Muthana has stated that she expects to be prosecuted if she is allowed to return. She says that she is aware of her choices and the consequences that will follow. She has also expressed regret for her choice and having taken advantage of the freedoms in the US. Her wish is to take her young son back to the US so he can live a normal life.