Controversial Rep Ilhan Omar Asked For Leniency for ISIS Fighters
While Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was in the Minnesota State legislature, she sent a letter to the judge on the case of 9 men accused of attempting to join ISIS and asked for leniency. She thinks that “inclusion and rehabilitation” is how to combat the radical Islamist group.
“The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to effect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation.” Ilhan Omar
There’s that liberal buzzword: “inclusion.” The problem with this approach to extremist behavior is that it simply creates more. Without serious consequences, is there any deterrent value? Why wouldn’t more extremists say to themselves, ‘they won’t do anything to me,’ and ‘they are weak.’
The nine men were accused of buying fake passports and planning to go to Syria in 2015 to fight for ISIS. Six of them pleaded guilty, the other three went to trial.
“I was not going there to pass out medical kits or food. I was going strictly to fight and kill on behalf of the Islamic State.” Defendant Abdirahman Yasin Daud
Three of the men, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, Guled Omar, Mohamed Farah were sentenced by Judge Davis to decades in prison. Omar was the leader of the group and received the longest sentence- 35 years.
MPR news reported at the time,
“I have traveled the world trying to figure out what to do with this jihadist behavior,” Davis said. “There’s nothing in our criminal justice system that can even come close to try to rehabilitate someone who has extreme jihadist ideology … Terrorists and their supporters should be incapacitated for a long period of time…
…This community needs to understand there is a jihadist cell in this community. Its tentacles spread out. Young people went to Syria and died,” the judge said. “You might want to publicize these are just young kids that are misguided. This court is thankful there was a trial so all the evidence could come out … The lies you told should be published so there’s no doubt of what’s happening here.”
Do you think that the “restorative” approach to jihadists is an effective idea? The judge in that case did not seem to think so. Here is the full letter Ilhan Omar wrote to the judge in November 2016 via Fox9:
Honorable Judge Davis,
As you undoubtedly deliberate with great caution the sentencing of nine recently convicted Somali-American men, I bring to your attention the ramifications of sentencing young men who made a consequential mistake to decades in federal prison. Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion. Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: “Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.”
The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.
The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people — it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them. Fueled by disaffection turned to malice, if the guilty were willing to kill and be killed fighting perceived injustice, imagine the consequence of them hearing, “I believe you can be rehabilitated. I want you to become part of my community, and together we will thrive.” We use this form of distributive justice for patients with chemical dependencies; treatment and societal reintegration. The most effective penance is making these men ambassadors of reform.
The restorative approach provides a long-term solution – though the self-declared Islamic State may soon suffer defeat, their radical approach to change-making will continue as it has throughout history – by criminalizing the undergirding construct rather than its predisposed victims. Therein, this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.
Thank you for your careful attention,
State Representative-Elect – MN 60B
Featured photo: Official photo for Rep Omar- via Wikimedia commons