“Jihadi Jack” or just a beardy bloke? The war on Muslim converts continues

White converts to Islam are being served up for public delectation at an ever increasing rate by the media, writes Lauren Booth.

We are on the press menu. So how would you like us – skewered, or well done-over?

Last week, a 20 year-old man from Oxford has become the latest headline catching convert, for allegedly being the first, middle class, white person, to go to Syria and join ISIS. The man in question, Jack Letts, appeared out of nowhere, with the readymade, fit-for-purpose, alliterative, nickname, “Jihadi Jack”. Before we follow the press pack baying for his blood.

Let’s just take a moment to examine some of the circumstantial evidence (that is all there is so far), against Letts. A good place to start is the Daily Mail. Their headline has Jack Letts saying “I’m no terrorist.” This is followed by the assertion that his denial is worthless as it was made ‘despite being photographed giving (an) extremist “tawhid” gesture.”

What is this alarming pose that clearly indicates membership to a terror group? Is it a secret sign, like the Freemasons have? It must be something reminiscent of an act of murder or mutilation. I dread to think what it is.

The Daily Mail is the most far-rght, Islamophobic tabloid in the UK.
The Daily Mail is the most far-rght, Islamophobic tabloid in the UK.

In fact, what the Mail and others are referring to is the mundane pose of pointing a right index finger in the air, to say ‘there’s only one God.’ The single digit symbolizes ‘one.’ The direction in which it points, upwards, symbolise, towards the heavens. Chilling.

It is necessary here to make something very clear. Just because ISIS or other militants do something that may have roots in Islamic faith practices or Muslim culture doesn’t mean that:

a) They created it
b) They own the copyright to it
c) When others do it they sympathize with the group.

When I liked funk music I’d wave my hands in the air like I didn’t care. But I didn’t beg “Cameo” to take me on tour.

The fact a beardy man or a hijabi woman points a finger at the sky, in no way shows that they are a cheerleader for jihadists. It’s a thing we Muslims do. Like saying ‘Allahu Akbar!’ when something important happens. By the way, that means ‘God is great’ not – we’re coming to get you and your first born (Faux Arab chilling laugh to be added here).

There are a serious issues raised by this media incitement dressed up as news reporting.

I have no idea who this man is or what he is actually doing in Syria. However, as a journalist, I wonder where the “smoking gun” actually lies within the fairly extensive media output, so far. It can’t just be – some bloke goes to Syria, grows a beard, points at the sky – he’s an extremist. Can it?

The family of “Jihadi Jack” has told a number of journalists that, despite being hugely concerned for their sons wellbeing, he has let them know exactly where he is in Syria and that they are not giving his location for the sake of his safety. They believe their son is helping refugee children in camps.

Yet the Sunday Times report ran a report painting a very different picture.

“Letts, a keen footballer and highly regarded student, admitted to his parents that he was with Isis in Syria in September 2014”.

To fit the current extremist mould – Letts should:

a) Marry a more radical “foreigner” preferably an Arab

b) Have a child and change his name to “Abu so and so” (father of so and so) bringing the tantalising prospect of a second generation jihadist child into the mix. The Sunday Times report went on to state, “it is understood Letts married a woman from the Iraqi city of Fallujah shortly after arriving in Syria.” Bingo.

ISIS has taken vast swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria
ISIS has taken vast swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria

Jack Letts has been reported as being a frontline fighter for the terror organisation ISIS having ‘settled in Fallujah’ (not Syria as his parents say or think) and having an Iraqi wife and child. Problem.

None of this has been in any way substantiated. So why run so heavily with it?

His mother and father dispute this utterly, saying he is not married nor does he have a son.

There appear to have been peculiar and semi-aggressive Facebook exchanges with friends, which Letts, who knows about the accusations, claims were made when his account was hacked.

No photos have been found of him posing with any weapons. Nor, have any been published of him doing “aid work”, proof of which appears to be patchy, at best.

What must concern us for now, is the willingness of mainstream news desks to race to bend circumstantial evidence into the narrative they want it to fit. Who can forget the incident earlier this month when a 10 year old boy from Lancashire, wrote a school essay about his life in a terraced house. Allegedly, he misspelt “terraced” putting “terrorist” instead, triggering a full on investigation of his family under the 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Act. The authorities now deny a spelling mistake was at the route of the issue, although ‘no further action’ will be taken against the shocked family.

Look at that catchy moniker “Jihad Jack”.

The Letts family are angry at the nickname, recognising it inflames their situation and provokes a public reaction against their, possibly innocent, son.

The Daily Mail infers that some of Letts old school friends nicknamed him ‘Jihadi Jack’ but disappointingly fails to give more details.

His parents say the press invented the name for their own ends

Meanwhile, the intelligence services have kept tabs on Mr Letts for over a year, due no doubt to his youth, his conversion to Islam, the fact he has learned Arabic and the fact he has posted photographs of himself (unarmed) in Syria.

The most relevant piece of evidence about Jack Letts and his activities, is so vital, any news writer should include it at the ‘top’ of a news piece, or preferably in the headline. It is this: “The police and security services say they have no evidence he (Jack Letts) has done anything wrong”.

Instead, this critical piece of information lies buried deep, deep down in the articles currently in circulation.

Meanwhile, a suburban couple are having their lives pored over and accusations made about their son in a deeply disturbing (and so far) unwarranted media storm. And a young man, who points at the sky in photos, is having his life back home, trashed.

Insha’Allah, Sally and John Letts will get legal representation and explore a defamation case and demand an IPSO investigation.

“Insh’Allah means God willing” by the way. Being a white Muslim convert, I’d better hope some bloke in a beard in Syria doesn’t say it on camera. Or I will doubtless be in trouble for using ‘extremist’ rhetoric.


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