Fear of Islam akin to racism: journalist
Says it is hard and challenging times for Muslims in the West
— Photo: S. Mahinsha
Narrating her experiences: Yvonne Ridley, British journalist, in the city on Sunday.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Muslims are persecuted today in the same way as the Jews were in the 1930s, Yvonne Ridley, British journalist and anti-war activist, said here on Sunday.
Ms. Ridley, known for her outspoken views and defence of Islam, shot to fame in 2001 following her capture by the Taliban in Afghanistan while working as a journalist with the Sunday Express. Following her release from captivity, Ms. Ridley converted to Islam.
“It is hard and challenging times for the Muslims in the West. The British media has an Islamophobic agenda,” she said. Islamophobia which the Muslims experience in the West is racism in reality.
Addressing presspersons at a function organised by the Jama’at-e-Islami in the city on Sunday, Ms. Ridley said the British and American forces were fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan. “I don’t know why the western leaders do not read their history books,” she said referring to the futile attempts made by the Russians, the Mongols and the Greek emperor Alexander to conquer the country in the past.
“The situation in Afghanistan is complex. The West should bombard the country not with bombs and bullets but with aids.”
Recalling her experience as a hostage in the hands of the Taliban, she said the members of the outfit treated her with utmost dignity and respect. “They kept on addressing me as sister and told me that I am their guest,” said Ms. Ridley, who prefixes her name with the title “sister” following conversion to Islam.
“After being captured by the Taliban for crossing the border in burqa without passport or visa, I never really thought that I would see the sunset that night,” she said. On the sixth day of her captivity, a Muslim cleric approached her with a demand for conversion to Islam. “But I protested and went on a hunger strike.” However, following her return to England, as the Taliban decided to set her free after 11 days of captivity, she read the Koran and embraced Islam. “My friends and family members were shocked by my decision,” she said.
“What impressed me about Islam was its sense of social justice, the concept of dispensing justice in equal measure to your friends and enemies,” she said. “Today, I am not afraid to talk about sharia and jihad.”
According to her, following her conversion, certain sections of the British media now refer to her as a former journalist. “It is as though they (media) cannot accept a Muslim woman as a journalist,” said Ms. Ridley, who has delivered lectures on issues relating to Kashmir, Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya and Uzbekistan at Ivy League universities across the U.S., Australia, South Africa and West Asia.
Ms. Ridley, founder member of the Friends of Islam, an all-party parliamentary group, is the author of In the Hands of the Taliban and Ticket to Paradise, a novel based on the backdrop of 9/11 which she wrote before getting converted to Islam.
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