Saturday 20 July 2019

Irish Isil suspect should be brought home to face justice here, says Islamic intellectual

Lisa Smith pictured living in Dundalk in 2011. Photo: Tom Conachy/
Lisa Smith pictured living in Dundalk in 2011. Photo: Tom Conachy/
Lisa Smith
Innocent: Lisa Smith making her First Communion. Picture:
Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces
Lisa Smith Photo: ITV News
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A leading European Islamic intellectual is calling for Isil suspect Lisa Smith to be allowed to come home to Ireland, saying if she was involved in terrorism she must face trial here.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, of the Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre Ireland, said the Muslim community here was shocked to learn about the case of Ms Smith.

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith

"It's important that she does come back to Ireland and there's a fair trial to determine if she was involved in terrorism or in supporting terrorism," he told the Irish Independent.

Former soldier Ms Smith (37), from Dundalk, Co Louth, was detained by US forces in northern Syria on Thursday having left Ireland in 2015 to travel to the war-torn region.

It's understood she married a British jihadi who died four months ago and has been left alone with a two-year-old boy.

"It is a shocking revelation, that someone who had been in the Defence Forces and worked on the government jet has been radicalised," said Dr Al-Qadri, a leading Sunni scholar.

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"An investigation now has to take place into which people were in contact with her when she converted to Islam."

Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces
Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces

He said new converts to the religion can be especially at risk of becoming radicalised and this often happens online.

"What we see with people who have embraced Islam is, maybe they have never even been to a mosque because there isn't one close.

"We need to begin having a discussion about what can be done to support those who decide to embrace Islam.

"We need to make sure our society is immune to radicalisation," he said.

Dr Al-Qadri, who is also the chair of Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, has been an outspoken critic of the extreme Islam used by followers to justify violence and works with inter-faith and integration groups.

He said for many turning to the religion, these extreme views can be attractive.

"Maybe she saw someone who was very strict in their religious views and as someone new to Islam maybe she was impressed by this.

"From her previous interview with the Irish Independent in 2011, she says there's no music, there's no alcohol, she was looking for change," he said.

Dr Al-Qadri said there can be a "black and white" view of "the believers against the unbelievers" and groups such as Isil have a constituency with a smaller minority. "It attracts certain type of people. People who are vulnerable, maybe people who feel they haven't been embraced by society," he said.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he would do everything he can to try to get Ms Smith home.

"Every effort will be made on the part of the Irish authorities to ensure that she does get home," he told RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics' yesterday.

He called Syria and Iraq "one of the most difficult conflict zones" in the world.

"If there's children involved, we have to make sure there's compassion there," he said. "I don't believe any Irish citizens go there on their holidays."

He confirmed Ireland did not have officials in the region but had "good contacts".

On Friday, a member of Ms Smith's family told the Irish Independent they just wanted to get her home safely. They said she contacted them in February and told them she wanted to come home.

The family member said they contacted the Taoiseach's department, and were then put through to the Department of Foreign Affairs and gave them the information about Ms Smith. 

Irish Independent

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