Alabama Woman Who Joined Islamic State Wants to Return to U.S.

Feb 20, 2019

Hoda Muthana's Hoover High School yearbook photo
Credit AP

An Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State after becoming radicalized online now wants to return to the United States, according to a lawyer representing her family.

24-year-old Hoda Muthana regrets ever aligning herself with the terrorist organization and is putting herself at risk by speaking out against it from a refugee camp where she has lived since fleeing the group a few weeks ago. That's according to attorney Hassan Shibly, who is representing Muthana's family.

Muthana, who dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape the Islamic State, says she is ready to pay the penalty for her actions but wants freedom and safety for the 18-month-old son she had with one of two IS fighters she wed. Both men were killed in combat.

In a handwritten letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made "a big mistake" by rejecting her family and friends in the United States to join the Islamic State.

"During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me," she wrote.

After fleeing her home in suburban Birmingham in late 2014 and resurfacing in Syria, Muthana used social media to advocate violence against the United States. In the letter, Muthana wrote that she didn't understand the importance of freedoms provided by the United States at the time.

Shibly argues Muthana was brainwashed online before she left Alabama and now could have valuable intelligence for U.S. forces. However, he says the FBI didn't seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son.

A Justice Department spokesman referred questions to the State Department, which did not immediately return an Associated Press email seeking comment.

Muthana's father would welcome the woman back, Shibly said, but she is not on speaking terms with her mother.

Ashfaq Taufique, who knows Muthana's family and is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, says the woman could be a valuable resource for teaching young people about the dangers of online radicalization if she were allowed to return to the United States.