I reference yesterday's four-year jail sentence meted out to a teenage Colorado girl convicted of trying to go to Syria to help Islamic State(IS) militants.
As reported by the BBC-News and the Huffington Post, Shannon Conley, 19, pleaded guilty last September to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
"FBI agents say Conley wanted to marry a suitor she met online who told her he was fighting with extremists. She repeatedly told them she wanted to fight alongside him or use her skills as a nurse's aide to help," the Huffington Post article said. The BBC added that Conley told her parents she planned to marry Yousr Mouelhi believed to be a Tunisian IS fighter.
Apparently the FBI became interested in Conley, according to the BBC, after she alarmed employees of a church in Denver by talking about terrorism and taking notes on the layout of the building. Over the course of eight months, the British news service reported that the FBI repeatedly tried to discourage Conley from traveling abroad, suggesting she explore humanitarian work instead. The BBC reported that her father, who refused to let her marry her Tunisian suitor, discovered a one-way ticket to Turkey with Conley's name on it.
Judge Raymond Moore of the Denver Federal Court imposed the sentence upon Conley noting that she has a history of defiance that has played out in the case and that she needs mental help. He said: "...This is Shannon being defiant yet again." The judge said the sentence was meant as a deterrent to others with similar intentions. He doubted Conley had disavowed Jihad based upon a letter she wrote to a friend from jail in which she ridiculed other inmates for denouncing terrorism. Court records indicate Conley was intent on waging Jihad even though she knew it was illegal.
But why? Why would Conley, a suburban American girl insist upon wanting to travel to Syria to fight? Defiance? Love? Affection? Loneliness? Nonrecognition?Alienation? Glory?
Only Conley knows. Yet, there are variations of Conley; and jails cannot hold them all. Thus, full consideration, compassion and mercy should be extended to each and everyone of them so that their societies could address the root causes of the forces driving Arab, American, European and other young people into a fallible journey to Jihad. Non-imprisonment alternatives to remedy youthful defiance and other teenage maladies into patriotism, a sense of worth and community spirit, must be emphasized.