USM students react to ISIS-related arrest

ISIS infographic
ISIS infographic

Southwest suburban Bolingbrook resident Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, was arrested by authorities at the O’Hare International Airport for attempting to join ISIS, a terrorist organization that has beheaded citizens of countries such as the U.S. and Great Britain.

On Oct. 6, Khan appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox after being charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, according to an Oct. 6 press release by the Department of Justice. He stayed in federal custody and had a detention hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 9.

After the hearing, Khan’s lawyers said the government does not have conclusive evidence that his client sought to provide materials to terrorists, according to a report on CBS.

“In the case of Khan, it was taxes,” said Nathan Barron, a freshman political science major. “Khan mentions in his journal that he cannot pay U.S. taxes that go to send airstrikes to bomb his Muslim brothers and sisters.”

This is not the reason all people leave their countries, according to Barron. For most it is the dissatisfaction with the “broken systems that have passed down to them.”
In the criminal complaint filed Oct. 6, investigators listed evidence against Khan.

On Oct. 4 he attempted to travel to Vienna, Austria. On Oct. 5, he was to arrive in Istanbul, Turkey, a transit point for foreign fighters from the U.S. and other western countries to travel to Syria and join ISIS.

While Khan was at the airport, law enforcement agents searched Khan’s residence. They found handwritten documents that express support for ISIS. The documents included a list of travel arrangements, drawings and sayings expressing support of ISIS (i.e., an armed fighter with an ISIS flag behind him with the words “Come to Jihad” in Arabic around the drawing) and a letter to his parents that lists his reasons for going to fight for ISIS.

Viktor Holland, a freshman polymer science major who has close relatives who have worked for relevant government agencies, said the people join groups like ISIS because of a strong sense of religious conviction and a sense of belonging.

“The punishment should be stronger,” Holland said. He said 15 years and a fine is not enough to discourage others from doing this.Barron said because Khan is an American citizen, Khan should have petitioned the government to invoke his freedom of religion in his disagreement of paying taxes to fund airstrikes.

“However, no citizen can hop on an airplane to join an enemy military force,” he said. “That is treason.”