Yvonne Ridley, Taliban Captive and Soon-To-Be Muslim, Speaks to IslamOnline
- Message: 1
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 12:02:57 -0000
From: "shanthimantram" <pa_faisal@....>
Subject: Yvonne Ridley, Taliban Captive and
Soon-To-Be Muslim, Speaks to IslamOnline
Yvonne Ridley, Taliban Captive and Soon-To-Be
Muslim, Speaks to
By Mohammed Ayub Khan
IslamOnline: First of all I would ask you to tell
us a little about
your religious background?
Yvonne Ridley: I was brought up a protestant, in
the Church of
England. I sang in the church choir and was the
Sunday school teacher
in my village in the north of England.
IOL: Did you have any knowledge about Islam
before your encounter
with the Taliban?
YV: Nothing more factual than would fill the back
of a postage stamp.
Of course I'd subscribed to all the myths about
subjugated and how it was an evil and violent
religion full of
IOL: Are you planning to convert to Islam or have
you done so already?
YV: I am on the road to conversion. Reports that
I have already
converted are premature.
IOL: What led to your conversion to Islam?
YV: I made a promise to a Taliban cleric that I
would study Islam -
if I was released. He had just asked me if I
wanted to convert and I
was terrified to say 'yes' or 'no' because either
response could have
drawn accusations that I was fickle or insulting
and therefore be
IOL: If there is one thing you find most
attractive in Islam, what
would that be?
YV: The real inspiration has been meeting and
getting to know all the
sisters. Without exception I have found them to
intelligent, opinionated, vocal, motivated,
switched on to
international and political affairs and be highly
course this blows the myth that Muslim women are
shy, retiring, timid
creatures who are rarely seen and heard.
IOL: Tell us a little about your days in Taliban
YV: I was terrified. Not only had I been captured
by the most brutal,
evil regime in the world [President Bush's words,
not mine] but they
hated women as well! I never thought I would see
the sun set that
first day. There were several other times when I
thought I would be
flogged or executed. There was one occasion when
I lost my temper and
spat and swore at my captors while being held in
Kabul Prison. I
thought that might provoke a hostile reaction but
they looked hurt
and told me I was their "guest" and their
After several days of interrogation at the
Jalalabad Intelligence HQ,
I was told that they believed I was an American
spy and that was
quite unnerving. They also gave me a wedding
dress before a cleric
asked me if I wanted to convert to Islam and that
was scary. All I
can say is that some man in Afghanistan has had a
pretty lucky escape!
On the whole, they treated me with great courtesy
and respect despite
my adverse reaction to being locked up. I had
entered their country
illegally without a passport and visa so, yes, I
was totally in the
wrong and could easily have been charged and put
on trial. My
treatment by the most brutal, evil regime in the
world, is a total
contrast to the treatment of those men being held
in Camp X-Ray.
IOL: Were you able to meet any of their women?
YV: The only women I met while I was in captivity
were six Christian
charity workers, three female prison officers and
two Afghan women
who were locked up for trying to sell a carpet to
strange men. Apart
from the Christians, two Americans, three Germans
and an Australian,
none of the others spoke in English so I never
really got a chance to
communicate with any native women. However, the
prison governor, a
fearsome-looking man, used to refer to his wife
as "the boss".
IOL: If you were to meet your Taliban captors
again, what would you
YV: I have! I took my daughter Daisy, aged nine,
on a holiday to
Afghanistan in May and we traveled all over. We
walked in to an
eating place four hours drive from Kabul and
there I saw some Taliban
and al-Qaeda people. I recognized three of my
captors and was
horrified. However, one came over and talked to
my translator and
asked what I was doing returning to Afghanistan.
He asked if I
recognized anyone and I said only if they cared
to be recognized,
otherwise it was none of my business. We were all
nervous as he
walked away and then he returned some minutes
later and said: "We
liked what you said about us when you returned to
London. Thank you
for telling the truth."
I nodded nervously and couldn't wait to leave,
but I was later told
that my safety is assured if I happen to bump
into them again. The
person I would really like to sit down and talk
to is Mullah Omar,
the Taliban's one-eyed spiritual leader who
ordered my release on
humanitarian grounds. I would want to know why
they treated their
women so badly.
IOL: What are your views on women's rights in
Islam as compared to
secular Western society?
YV: The first thing I scrutinized when I read the
Qur'an was property
and divorce laws. I was amazed. I thought it
could have been written
by a Hollywood divorce lawyer! In fact, that's
probably from where
they got their inspiration. I was also pleased to
see that women are
equal with regards to education and spirituality,
but the Qur'an does
acknowledge we have the extra burdens of
and periods. I like to think we are the deluxe
model of the human
form since we have so many additional functions!
IOL: How is your family coping with your
YV: Initially my family was shocked. You'd think
I'd applied to
become the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
IOL: Any message you would like us to deliver to
the Muslim World?
YV: September 11 was the best and worst thing
that happened to Islam.
I know that the confidence of many brothers and
sisters has been
shattered, but be proud of who you are and what
you stand for. Do not
be browbeaten into diluting your beliefs in the
hope of ingratiating
yourself with those in power. Beware of false
those who hang round the gates of power
pretending to espouse views
on your behalf that they say are in your
interest. The Christians
have a good saying: "The nearer the pulpit, the
bigger the sinner!"
The wonderful thing about Islam is you have a
direct link with God.
You don't need a conduit or a middle person.
Peace and love to all.
* Yvonne Ridley is author of In The Hands of the
Taliban published by
Robson Books in the UK.
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 18:52:05 -0000
From: "shanthimantram" <pa_faisal@....>
Subject: From Captive To Convert , Converting to
Captors religion after freed..
Interview: From Captive To Convert
British journalist Yvonne Ridley reveals the
reasons behind her
decision to convert to Islam
Aug. 26 issue � Last September, as tensions
mounted in Afghanistan,
and Washington prepared to invade, British
tabloid journalist Yvonne
Ridley made headlines around the world. Clad head
to toe in a burqa,
Ridley was captured by the Taliban after sneaking
on the back of a mule
IN HER NATIVE BRITAIN, the incident provoked
heavy criticism. Ridley
was accused of pulling a dangerous stunt at a
endangering herself, her guides and the fragile
international diplomacy. Now, nearly a year
later, the veteran
journalist is once again in the news. She
recently announced plans
to convert to Islam. Ridley sat down with
NEWSWEEK's John Ghazvinian
last week to explain her decision. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: It's a bid odd, isn't it, that a
journalist who was held
captive by the Taliban would, several months
later, be converting to
RIDLEY: I know, you couldn't make it up. It is
strange. Some people
have said, "Oh, she's suffering from Stockholm
syndrome" [in which
kidnap victims become enamored of their captors].
But I abused them,
I spat at them, swore at them, offended them,
which is not what
someone suffering from Stockholm syndrome does.
So why are you converting?
When I was captured, I was visited by an imam who
asked me if I'd
like to convert. I thought if I just said yes,
he'd say I was a
fickle woman, and if I said no, then it would be
a huge insult to
Islam. So I promised that if they released me,
I'd study Islam when
I got back to London. And what started out as an
academic study has
now turned into something much more spiritual.
I'm very impressed
with what I've found.
What was the point at which your academic
interest tipped over into
a personal or spiritual one?
I can't define one particular thing, but I can
define the moment
that I lost faith in Christianity. And that was
during the siege of
Manger Square, when the Israelis were shelling
the Church of the
Nativity, the holiest shrine in Christendom, and
not one single
church leader in this country condemned what was
up and down the country re-enact the Nativity
every Christmas, it's
so pivotal to the whole religion, and not one
lousy bishop or
archbishop�not one of them�stood up. If they
don't have the
conviction to stand up and shout about the abuse
that's happening to
the holiest shrine in Christendom, if they
couldn't care less, why
should I care?
What sort of conversations did you have with your
Afghanistan? Did you ever talk about Islam?
I wish I knew then what I know now, because I
would have felt
confident raising the issue of Islam and asking
what on earth they
thought they were doing with their women... But
they were fanatical
about their religion, so I just kept away from
[the subject]. I did
ask them why they destroyed the Buddhas. And they
said, the whole
world had ostracized us, and we had decided we
were going to get rid
of these rocks, and suddenly the whole world
wanted to talk to us.
We have millions of people starving, nobody gives
a damn about us.
We say we're going to destroy a few rocks, and
suddenly the whole
world gets very agitated, everybody wants to come
and talk. So we
thought, stuff them.
Do you think there could have been some room for
dialogue with the Taliban?
What happened in Afghanistan is a fantastic
example of why you
should never totally ostracize a country. Because
it will then
become a target for all the fanatics to go in and
take advantage of.
If the West had been able to help them, and if
they had been allowed
to become dependent on food aid, they might have
come in from the
edges a bit. We'll never know.
What was your impression of the Taliban's brand
of Islam while you
Every mealtime, even though I was on hunger
strike, they would go
through the ritual of washing my hands for me.
They kept referring
to me as their "sister." They prayed five times a
day regardless of
what was happening.
What about this business of hanging your knickers
up to dry in front
of your captors?
I was washing my knickers and bra, and I hung
them up on the line.
And they told me to put a towel over it or
something. And I said,
that's bloody ridiculous. I thought, that's
typical of men, who've
never had to do washing or drying in their life.
And I told them to
get stuffed. And they told me that the governor
was getting very
angry, because his soldiers could see it, and it
could give them
impure thoughts. I said, if he's that bothered,
tell him to come and
take them down himself. Anyway, within half an
hour, because of the
baking sun, they were dry.
Now that you're becoming a Muslim, would you do
the same thing
Well, it was very difficult. I had a game plan to
get out of that
prison, and I just had to be as difficult as
possible. No, I don't
think I would have been more sensitive. I mean, I
prisoner. I had to be as awkward and horrible as
� 2002 Newsweek, Inc.
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