Since the West passed up on its chance to intervene early in the Syrian Civil War, our choices have narrowed from bad to worse, and not just in Syria. As the execution of James Foley by a British ISIS member demonstrated, ISIS’ foreign fighters—estimated at 2,000 to 3,000—pose the risk of someday using their capacities for murder and mayhem at home.The British government has started to wake up to the danger, but are the measures it is contemplating compatible with a free society? The BBC reports:
New powers to tackle extremist groups are being looked at by the government, the home secretary has said.Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Theresa May said what have been dubbed “Asbos for terrorists” could be introduced for those who try to radicalise others.Groups believed to be inciting terrorism could also be banned under new orders, even if they “fall short of the legal threshold”, she said.
The Home Secretary also spoke of revoking the passports or even citizenship of those who had gone to fight for ISIS. While the UK has also embraced less dramatic measures, such as working with imams to stop radicalism within Muslim communities, some of these ideas raise questions regarding civil liberties.Of course it’s not hard to see where the impulse for dramatic changes comes from: as an MP recently pointed out, more young Muslim Britons are fighting for ISIS than serving in the British Army, and some have threatened to continue the jihad upon returning to the West. Given that ISIS is many times stronger than al-Qaeda was before 9-11, it’s no wonder that Britain has become nervous.The measures the Government proposed have won a striking amount of support across the British establishment, with both David Davis, one of the UK’s most prominent libertarian Conservatives, and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, backing calls for passport and citizenship measures. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (whom many believe will succeed David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives) went so far as to argue that there should be a “rebuttable presumption” in law that those who have gone to Syria or Iraq went to fight for ISIS—guilty until proven innocent, in other words.The UK won’t be the only country where fears over local citizens involved in ISIS lead to crackdowns, greater surveillance, and a more intrusive state. The ugly consequences of the West’s failures in Syria continue to grow—and to grow closer to home.