He made headlines as Australia's first convicted terrorist post-9/11, after travelling to Afghanistan and meeting Osama bin Laden. But today Jack Roche is urging young Australians to take a different road.
Here, Jack – who has since changed his name to Khalid - shares his thoughts with The Weekly:
What do you think about young Australians going out to join forces with ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
I think they are 'jumping the gun', as it were. We do not know what the true credentials of ISIS are. ISIS claim they are the 'real McCoy' in terms of Islamic credibility - which they tout in order to attract so many young Muslims to join their throng. In many ways it is not dissimilar to old ads from the UK that used to promote 'join the navy and see the world'. That may sound outlandish, especially when we read of ISIS beheading people willy-nilly. But bear in mind that the majority of Muslims feel strongly that certain issues are being sidelined or ignored by [the US and allies].
Much of what is taking place has to do with legitimacy. Whilst the West considers it legitimate to have armed forces and weapons, then so too do those who maintain Islam as their creed of belief, especially the younger men, since it is a valid credo within Islam for a man to be able to defend himself should the need to do so arise.
This is what ISIS is appealing to: that sense of responsibility on the part of young men to wage war if necessary. And I think that is one of the reasons why so many young men are travelling from the likes of Australia to Syria and Iraq to be with and part of ISIS. Personally I can see how easy it would to be fooled by the likes of ISIS and this to a great extent is the reason why young men go to join them: a lack of proper Islamic knowledge.
What impact do you think recent terror raids and Australia’s military involvement are having on young Muslims generally?
The recent terror raids, one would hope, occurred because of real factual information that the police agencies were privy to. Having said that, I think many in the Muslim community would see it as the actualization of more anti-Muslim sentiment. As a consequence, many Muslim youth will see it as attacks upon Islam and this plays directly into the hands of the likes of ISIS.
Actions such as those, whilst appearing to benefit and maintain mainstream community as a whole, create schisms are disenfranchise Muslims in general and Muslim youth in particular. Such measures may well be necessary but not all the time.
What kind of support would you like to see offered to young people who are at risk of becoming radicalized, as you were?
Some kind of deradicalization programme that is sincere in its objectives, seen to promote Islamic ideals and supporting those at risk, both ideally and financially if necessary. I am sure that the price paid for the establishment of a deradicalization programme is minuscule and fades in comparison to what could possibly happen as a consequence of ignoring such individuals.
What was it that made you want to go to Afghanistan? And how different was the reality from what you expected?
I went to Afghanistan as at that time I believed that I was fulfilling my Islamic duty to be trained in certain military skills, not unlike modern day conscription in some countries today. However, once I arrived in Afghanistan, it soon became apparent that the powers that were in Afghanistan at the time had another agenda in store for me. In that respect it was not what I was initially led to believe and I felt duped.
On returning to Australia I had to try and untangle myself from the mess I was in as a result of that trip to Afghanistan. Eventually I managed to do that but some two years and five months after my return to Australia, I was raided by the Australian Federal Police, WA police and ASIO and a month later arrested. I was eventually tried in court, ended up pleading guilty, and sentenced to time in prison. I feel I have paid my 'debt' to society and just want to get on with the remainder of my life.
This is an edited version of a full interview that Khalid, gave to The Weekly* earlier this month.