That was more than four years ago. Now, after being married to three Islamic State fighters and witnessing executions like those she had once cheered on social media, Ms. Muthana says she is deeply sorry and wants to return home to the United States.These two women are just a small part of a big problem, what to do with hundreds of westerners who went to fight for the Islamic State. My inclination is to be merciful. I doubt there are many people among this group who don't regard the whole affair as a disaster at the least, and from what I read many have sincerely turned against the ideology that once inspired them. What better way to inoculate our societies against fundamentalism than people with first-hand experience of what a nightmare it was in practice?
She surrendered last month to the coalition forces fighting ISIS, and now spends her days as a detainee in a refugee camp in northeastern Syria. She is joined there by another woman, Kimberly Gwen Polman, 46, who had studied legal administration in Canada before joining the caliphate and who possesses dual United States and Canadian citizenship.
Both women, interviewed by The New York Times at the camp, said they were trying to figure out how to have their passports reissued, and how to win the sympathy of the two nations they scorned.
“I don’t have words for how much regret I have,” said Ms. Polman, who was born into a Reformed Mennonite community in Hamilton, Ontario, to an American mother and Canadian father and who has three adult children.
Ms. Muthana said, “Once I look back on it, I can’t stress how much of a crazy idea it was. I can’t believe it. I ruined my life. I ruined my future.”
I suppose there is a danger that some remain faithful, but given how comprehensively the Islamic State has been defeated I don't see them as a threat. If they wanted to be martyrs they would be dead by now, rather than languishing in refugee camps. Maybe in twenty years some will start to remember their jihadist days as a grand adventure and encourage young relations to follow in their footsteps, but I think that is a small risk and I am willing to take it in the name of mercy and reconciliation.