Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shot five American military personnel to death at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga on July 16 and was subsequently killed in a firefight with the police, became a naturalized American citizen while still a minor, seven years after his parents immigrated to the United States in 1996. According to the Washington Post, the couple described themselves as “natives of the ‘State of Palestine’” in their divorce papers; according to Jordan, however, their son also had Jordanian citizenship, which he maintained after becoming a U.S. citizen in 2003. Investigations conducted after the murders revealed that the parents lived strictly in accordance with Muslim tradition and observance, and that a number of years ago Abdulazeez Sr. was placed on an investigative watch list from which he was removed only after suspicions that he had contributed money to what was possibly a terrorist front group could not be proved.
Muhammad Jr. traveled from the United States to Jordan five times and to Kuwait once, in 2008. In April 2015 he was arrested on a drunk-driving charge—another statistic from Ann Coulter’s researches, another face to personalize Donald Trump’s recent generalizations regarding immigrants to America from the Third World. No one disputes the facts that Muhammad Youssef, not long before the attack, had downloaded videos posted by Anwar al-Awlaki, the Al Qaeda recruiter, and that he had been investigating online the spiritual efficacy of jihad and martyrdom as a means of atoning for his sinful indulgence in drugs and alcohol.
Yet an agent with the FBI has asserted that the agency does not now understand Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez to have been a terrorist, merely “a homegrown violent extremist” who may have been “self-radicalized.” How does the FBI explain the difference? Would Timothy McVeigh have been viewed differently by the American authorities had he spent time in England with the British National Front before driving to Oklahoma City? Are homegrown violent extremists less dangerous—and terrifying—to their victims, and the general public, because they adopted terrorist goals and tactics independent of some malign foreign influence thousands of miles away? What is the federal government’s purpose in making the distinction? (The answer is, probably not an honest one.)
The Western nations—Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, in particular—worry very much about “self-radicalized” residents or citizens traveling to the Middle East, becoming other-radicalized, and returning “home” to kill their “fellow citizens” in the West. But where, exactly, is the problem here? Instead of concentrating their efforts on preventing Muslim radicals from leaving, the governments of these countries should be focused on refusing to allow them back in and revoking their passports. Let them all become men without countries. Any constitutional and other legal problems involved in this strategy can surely be resolved by invoking standing antitreason laws, and perhaps passing new ones.
Why are the governments of what used to be called the Free World adopting the strategy of those of the former Communist Bloc by passing laws designed to keep people who endanger domestic peace and security inside their countries, rather than outside them?