Source: Herald Sun
“Jihad” Jack Thomas, acquitted of terrorism charges, milkman to police and judiciary, torture victim and now Outback road-train driver, wants peace.
In a wide-ranging interview about his controversial life, from meeting Osama bin Laden on Afghanistan’s front lines and enduring violent Pakistani interrogation to prison banter with the late gangland boss Carl Williams, Thomas reveals:
- FORMER Australian soldier-turned Taliban/al-Qaida fighter Mathew Stewart is believed to be still fighting in Afghanistan;
- WHILE on bail for terrorism-related charges, Thomas had security clearance to restricted areas in the County Court and two major police stations to deliver milk at night before facing court each morning;
- HE wants an end to labeling terrorists as jihadists, saying attacks on civilians are banned in Islamic teachings;
- GOVERNMENTS and media that aligned Islam with terrorism helped perpetuate future generations of disaffected Muslim youth;
- HE recalls a greeting he received from Mick Gatto as Thomas visited his wife in hospital;
- HE was hit with shrapnel in Afghanistan and how he was preparing to leave when 9/11 happened in 2001; and
- HOPES that Islam is going through a renaissance and will be stabilized by the Arab Spring transformation of the Middle East.
- HE is launching a fight against ASIO to get his Maritime Security pass to be able to drive trucks to and from ports.
AFTER a recent stint driving 170-tonne road trains in northern Australia, the father of five joked he should now be called Outback Jihad Jack.
Australian-born of Irish stock, and with Jewish ancestry, Thomas said he went to Afghanistan in early 2001 to fight with the Taliban against Northern Alliance forces to end a civil war.
“I went to Afghanistan as a boy and I came back to Australia as a broken man, now I’m trying to put my life back together,” Thomas told the Herald Sun.
He said terrorism was “totally against every core value, every bone in my body, to ever hurt innocent people. We would as Muslims be the first to stand and defend this country as Australians. I’m five generations Australian. Yes, I’m Irish, I might be a bit angry sometimes.”
“In order for us to stop the attacks I believe we need to tell the truth about Islam and Jihad and that it is free from any of these criminal acts, starting from the (Munich) Olympics in ’72.”
Thomas said politically or religiously motivated terrorism that targeted civilians was a crime.
“Absolutely, definitely, they have nothing to do with Islam. They (perpetrators) have been misled, whether its from the extremists on the Muslim side or the extremists on the side of the Right, not even the Western governments, look at the Russian government, by describing them (the Boston bombings) as Islamic actions.”
“He (Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev) might be a Muslim but it’s got nothing to do with the Islamic religion, even though he says it’s religiously motivated there is no precedent. Islam is being defamed not only by these deluded people but by people who are being paid, shock jocks or whatever.”
But Thomas said Islam did not tolerate oppression and jihad allowed Muslims to confront aggression.
“When I say there is no terrorism in Islam I want to make one correction – the same so called inalienable right that the (United) States say they have, Islam had that long before them, and that is shock and awe, to terrorize those who would do people harm, the oppressors, the unjust, that is the fear that jihad should put in their hearts, they should be terrorized, criminals, tyrants, people who are willing to usurp other peoples’ rights.
“But for me, people should live and let live. Part of being a good Muslim is leaving what doesn’t concern you.
“A terrorist is attacking to change the political landscape. How is that going to change the political landscape. It’s totally futile, its moronic, its lunacy.
“We go on as Australians about our proud military history. But Islam also has a proud military history. And it’s got nothing to do with killing people in a running race or in a market.
“So don’t call it jihad, or jihadist or Islamist extremism. It’s actually nothing to do with the religion. They say it’s got something to do with religion but what religion, what belief system, especially an Abrahamic faith, would align themselves with such dastardly and criminal deeds.
“It perpetuates itself that the youth, the hundreds that ASIO are worrying about now because they have gone to Syria. The hypocrisy to me is very clear. We talk about freedom and democracy but then when you go and do something about it you are a terrorist. That’s ridiculous. Why compartmentalize these people or box them as terrorists.”
Thomas said true jihad was “raising the word of God. The greatest jihad is telling the truth to an oppressor.
“When there is oppression in the land, then you need to stand up and act. And that is a jihad.
“We believe as Muslims that the time of the oppressors is on the wane. But it can’t just be with what Ghandi did (passive resistance).
“I can’t understand why there is war. I’ve been to war, I’ve been on the front lines. I’ve been hit by shrapnel, I’ve heard the bullers zinging past my head.
“I chose to fight because 95 per cent of that country (Afghanistan) was at peace and I thought it was a chance to end the decades of civil war (in the remaining areas).
“I don’t think young men go to war wanting to fight, rather they want to end the war.
“I really believe as Muslims we are being marginalized and it only serves the extremists on both sides to do that.
“Thats why I’m here, because of the extremists on my side and because of the extremists on your side. People who are more interested in maybe profit or stoking hatred than getting along and moving forward as the global village that we now are.”
Thomas said ex-Digger Mathew Stewart, whose family believe might now be dead after leaving the Australian army with psychological problems stemming from an East Timor tour, was a short distance away from him during a battle in Afghanistan and security agencies believed Stewart might still be alive and active in the war zone.
“He was very close by in the trenches when we were leaving Afghanistan. And I think he’s still causing them grief now.
“I heard a couple of things that he had told us, told the brothers. Like about what the soldiers do, the Australian soldiers, how they take adrenilin and other things before battle. He’d divulge certain information.
“From what they (ASIO) said, he was still causing them grief.”
He said he saw al Qaida chief bin Laden three times but never spoke directly with him.
Thomas confirmed he had acted as a milk delivery driver to courts and police during one of his terrorism-related trials, saying it proved he was not a threat.
“I was delivering milk to the police headquarters in Flinders Lane. I was delivering milk to the courts in Williams St. I had the swipe card. I’d go up and deliver all the milk.”
He said police eventually cottoned on and asked for another driver, but he continued his milk run to the courts.
But Thomas said it highlighted the difference between reality and his profile as an accused terrorist sympathizer.
While in custody on remand, Thomas said he was described as the “worst of the worst” terrorist.
“They were saying we can’t give this guy bail because al Qaida might come in a helicopter and take him out of prison.
“You people (in the media) gave me a profile, much as I hated it.
“For me I just cried in my jail cell night after night after night. How the f… can you call me a terrorist. It was just devastating.”
During one stint at Barwon Prison on remand, drugs boss Carl Williams yelled out a request from his cell down the corridor.
“He goes ‘Hey Jihad, next time you see bin Laden tell him not to bomb unit two’.”
Thomas’s wife, Maryati, didn’t want him to talking to the media, but he said it was important to draw a distinction between Muslims and terrorist criminals who “hijacked” the Islamic faith to indiscriminately attack civilians.
“I’ve had enough of the status quo, the attacks and counter attacks. It was Spain, then it was London, Boston. We have to stand up and tell the truth about Islam so that it doesn’t carry on, so that they can’t misinterpret, believe and therefore carry out or continue to carry out these things, falsely believing that it is part of the religion when there is no justification. In fact, it’s prohibited by Islam.”
Thomas said while terrorism was the act of “insane criminals”, he understood the emotional frustration driving some perpetrators.
“I can understand the silicon switch has been switched to overload.
“I can only think that the inability to effect any sort of change has driven them so desperately to the brink into insanity that they carry out attacks.”
The Melbourne-born former amateur actor, ballet dancer and rock band frontman, said his hope was to stop the “status quo” of attacks and counter-attacks in a cultural war.
“To get something good out of all this s— I’d be happy. Cause it was s— – that I’m a terrorist.
“My only crime, my only stupidity was to get the Taliban visa,” he said, referring to subsequent false document charges after he tried to use a fake Pakistan passport to leave the region after the September 11attacks. “That was my crime.”
After his arrest, Thomas spent five months “being eaten alive by mosquitos” in a tiny Pakistan cell while being beaten and threatened by the ISI as the CIA or other US investigators looked on.
He claims to now suffer post-traumatic stress as a result.
“I was tortured while the Americans were sitting there. Strangulation, suffocation, threats. The American said they would send agents to rape my wife.
“No one will hear you scream.”
While calling for peace in the so-called “war on terrorism”, Thomas said he was not a pacifist and that Ghandi-like responses in Muslim countries was not enough.
“I’m a martial artist, if someone attacks me or my family I will defend myself and my family. But I can only do so much. I thought by going to Afghanistan and stopping that civil war, after 95 per cent of the country was at peace, now it’s back to the warlords again.”
He said while the Taliban was at one stage a purer form of Islam, he had seen the “blood on their hands”, including an incident where a young boy was run down and the Taliban occupants refused to stop and the notorious video depictions of women being shot by enforcers.
Thomas said although he saw bin Laden, he had never heard of al Qaida before being captured, but told his interrogators he was aware of the group in an attempt to be co-operative.
“Because they wanted to hear al Qaida overseas, that’s al Qaida this and al Qaida that, mate, you want to hear it.
“For me it’s just a bogey man that is quite convenient to put us all together, label it and make it simple for the masses.”
He said bin Laden should have been prosecuted and not executed if the US wanted justice.
“I said that if he is (a criminal) – I don’t agree with drone strikes and target terrorist and surgical strikes, there should be justice, (it) needs to be seen to be doing justice, why dump the guy (bin Laden’s body) in the middle of the Arabian sea and make more conspiracy theories.
“If he was a criminal he would be judged for his actions.”
Thomas said Islam had been “defamed” by criminal acts in its name and by governments and the media ready to automatically tie terrorism with a form of legitimate jihad.
“The only extremism in Islam is to be extremely kind, extremely generous extremely merciful, extremely well educated.
“To be aggressive, to act criminally, to commit crimes or to be extremist in a negative sense is totally un-Islamic. It goes against all the teachings of Islam.
“There are rules for jihad, rules of engagement, strict rules of engagement.”
He said the true meaning of jihad was to “struggle”, to raise up the word of God and, at its highest sense, to stand up and fight for the oppressed against military force.