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Peter Beard’s powerful documentary raises questions about identity, belonging and shared values.
In 2011, Sally Evans made a devastating discovery - her eldest son, Thomas aged just 21, had left their home in a Buckinghamshire village and travelled to Somalia to join a deadly Islamist terrorist group. Thomas had been recruited to Al Shabaab - an Al Qaeda affiliate, it is the jihadi group behind multiple atrocities in Kenya, including the Westgate shopping attack in which nearly 70 people were killed and 175 injured. Thomas became the only known white British man to join the terror group.
This powerful film documents the daily struggle Sally and her youngest son Micheal face, as they try to reconcile the Thomas they knew - a loving mild-mannered ‘normal teenage lad’ with Abdul Hakim, the jihadi-preaching Islamist he has become.
Micheal, who had always been close to his big brother is furious with Thomas and often refuses to speak to him when he calls but Sally, despite being horrified by his views and sickened by the atrocities carried out by his group, refuses to give up on him and seeks the help of a de-radicalisation expert from a Muslim charity, The Active Change Foundation. Mike Jervis has helped rescue the sons of 37 other families and starts by exploring Thomas’ childhood and early adult years pinpointing the pivotal moments which made him vulnerable to recruitment by extremists in order to formulate a strategy to help Sally draw him back to the UK.
Filmed over a pivotal nine month period with privileged access to the lives of both Micheal and Sally – the film captures the shocking events that unfold and their first-hand reactions as they learn more about Thomas’ exact involvement in Al-Shabaab activity. With stories continuing to break of Brits travelling abroad to fight alongside Islamist terrorists, My Son The Jihadi explores the story of how one young ordinary man became radicalised in Britain and abandoned his family and country with devastating consequences for all of them.
The event will be introduced by Amy Flanagan, deputy head of Channel 4 Documentaries.