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Yvonne Ridley, Taliban Captive and Soon-To-Be Muslim, Speaks to IslamOnline

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  • hamba Allah
    Message: 1 Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 12:02:57 -0000 From: shanthimantram Subject: Yvonne Ridley, Taliban Captive and Soon-To-Be Muslim, Speaks
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1 2:16 AM
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      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
      women being
      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
      be highly
      intelligent, opinionated, vocal, motivated,
      switched on to
      international and political affairs and be highly

      supportive. Of
      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
      tell them?

      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
      childbirth, breast-feeding
      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
      prophets, especially
      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.


      Message: 8
      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

      into Afghanistan
      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
      sensitive time,
      endangering herself, her guides and the fragile
      state of
      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
      happening. Children
      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

      captors in
      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
      conversation or
      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
      were there?
      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

      was their
      prisoner. I had to be as awkward and horrible as

      � 2002 Newsweek, Inc.


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