The mother of a young man reported to be the first white Briton to join Islamic State has said it is ridiculous to suggest her son is a terrorist.
Sally Letts said her son Jack, 20, from Oxford, was not a member of the Islamist organisation and had gone to Syria to do humanitarian work.
In an interview with the Guardian, she confirmed her son had been in Raqqa, the headquarters of Isis, but said newspaper reports that he had married, had a baby boy and was going by the name Ibrahim or Abu Mohammed were all false. Since the allegations appeared in the media, Jack Letts has posted denials on his Facebook page.
His father, John, said newspapers made up the nickname “Jihadi Jack” because it suited their agenda. “It’s so ridiculous,” he said. “It was made up. Everything is alleged.
“People hear what they want to hear. They can’t resist the alliteration of Jihadi John and Jihadi Jack,” he added, in reference to the Isis terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed by a drone attack in November.
It was reported at the weekend that Jack Letts, who converted to Islam while living in the UK, was one of 750 Britons to have joined Isis. The Mail Online said he was “a frontline fighter for the brutal terror group and lives with his Iraqi wife and his son Muhammed after moving to the Iraqi city of Fallujah from Raqqa”.
However, his mother said: “We spoke to him yesterday and he said he had never had a weapon in his life.
A prominent British Muslim activist in Australia campaigning against Islamic extremism has been snubbed by 45 Muslim organisations. Maajid Nawaz’s promoter Think Inc said the UK government adviser and author wanted to meet as many Muslim leaders as possible to discuss counter-extremism with them.
Think Inc contacted 46 organisations, including schools, across Melbourne and Sydney and received one affirmative response.
Muslim Students Australia NSW was among those who declined to meet him.
Think Inc director Suzi Jamil said MSA NSW replied via email saying it and “the wider Australian Muslim community” did not support Nawaz’s views and “his presence in Australia would not be welcomed”
The Lebanese Muslim Association did not meet with Nawaz and declined to respond to AAP’s questions about him. Nawaz is a former member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir and spent five years imprisoned in Egypt. During imprisonment, he studied human rights and had a change of heart. Still a Muslim, though not devout, Nawaz went on to co-found counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam and call for “secular Islam” to reform the Islamic faith.
Australian Muslim human rights activist Sara Saleh clashed with Nawaz on the ABC’s Monday edition of current affairs program The Drum. “He has gone from one extreme to the other end in saying: I am the gatekeeper of what it is to be a Muslim, what it is to be appropriate, what kind of Islamism is acceptable,” Ms Saleh said.
Australian Muslim Women’s Association president Silma Ihram was not asked to meet Nawaz but said the way he tackled the issue of extremism got Muslims “a bit off side”. “The fact that he’s not a practising Muslim doesn’t help at all,” she said.