The news that Lauren Booth, Tony
Blair’s sister-in-law converted to Islam, not only surprised but
sent shock waves mainly through the world media.
The initial surprise was followed by a derogative campaign
ridiculing her both on a personal and professional level. She was
mocked for saying she had given up drinking and eating pork and
for wearing a head scarf and reading the Qur’an. Jokes revolved
around how she had managed to only reach Page 60!
The volume of negative reports in the press prompted her to write
a response in The Guardian titled, “I am a Muslim. Why all the
shock and horror”.
In a world as outlined by George W. Bush in 2001 when he said,
“you are either with us or against us”, by “us” he meant the West.
This “us” and “them” situation was further perpetuated through the
now discredited “war on terror” and through government policies
supported by mainstream media and in the process hatred and
discrimination against Muslims was unofficially legitimized.
Under these conditions the fact that Lauren Booth decided to leave
the “us” and join “them” made her a legitimate target for the
“liberal free press”.
To convert is to make some form of a statement, as Andrew Brown
wrote in The Guardian, “By becoming a Muslim, Tony Blair's
sister-in-law has made a clear political statement about the
society she has rejected”.
He continues: But it is also always a political and social act, a
statement about where you fit into the world. To convert is to
announce your allegiance to a new tribe, or a new idea of
Booth wasn’t announcing a new allegiance. Her allegiance had
always been to justice and truth as her relentless efforts for the
rights of the Palestinians has shown. Rather it was a rejection of
politicians like Blair whose belief is that “Islam is the biggest
threat to world peace” and therefore needs to be confronted. For
Booth it was this same belief that led Blair to mislead the nation
about the weapons of mass destruction and the eventual death of
over a million Iraqis.
One of the first things she did say after converting was that she
hoped Blair would change his presumptions about Islam.
It was mainly the pro-Israel news networks and websites that took
pleasure in mocking and ridiculing Booth, their main issue with
her was that unlike her brother-in-law, she championed the rights
of the displaced Palestinians.
One can understand their embarrassment, their man,
ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, who went into the Iraq War backed by
pro-Israel financier Lord Levy and today is working in their
interests, (certainly not for the Arabs) as Middle East peace
envoy, has been exposed by a family member who doesn’t back his
One of the most vicious attacks on Booth came from a columnist in
The Independent, and the link to the article said, “What sort of
woman freely converts to Islam”. The article titled “Poor Lauren
Booth – she would do anything to get in with the tough kids” was
written by Julie Burchill in which she suggests Islam is by its
very nature violent, misogynistic and no rational Western woman
would consider it as an option.
Her attack on Booth was used to denigrate Islam to such an extent
that it led to an open letter being sent to The Independent
Newspaper by Muslim community organizations demanding an apology
for an article that openly incited hatred toward Muslims.
Booth explains: “Judging by what has been written in the so called
'liberal' press about my conversion, gives me a real flavor of
just how language that ridicules and decries Muslims has become in
our society. It is tasteless, often offensive and most certainly
incites religious hatred.”
Booth works for Press TV, and is a columnist and features writer
for Mail on Sunday; she has regularly reviewed UK newspapers on
Sky News, BBC One and News 24.
The media continue to say that Press TV “are her paymasters”. By
paymasters they assume she is earning a great salary. However the
main question asked here is even if the salary was good, could it
beat the millions she could have earned by agreeing and working
with Blair who is now a multimillionaire?
Instead, the gentle softly spoken Booth joins the group
continually maligned in the press as “terrorists” and
“fundamentalists” knowing full well the abuse she will have to
suffer due to this decision. The question is why?
Booth: “Allah has spoken to my heart and called me to Islam.”
For Booth the path to Islam “began with an awakening to the gap
between what had been drip-fed to me about all Muslim life – and
“When I arrived in the region, to work alongside charities in Gaza
and the West Bank, I took with me the swagger of condescension
that all white middle-class women hold toward poor Muslim women,
women I presumed would be little more than black-robed blobs.
After all, that's what the Muslim world is all about, that’s what
we had been taught?”
After her many trips to Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, she
began to see beyond the Western stereotypes and saw lots of women
of all ages, in all manner of head coverings, educated to high
levels and holding positions of power.
“My interest in Islam started after I had an awakening to the
beauty of the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and
especially in my home - Gaza. I felt the true kindness that exists
in Arab Muslim homes and communities, where people have nothing,
sometimes not even the bare essentials, but are willing to share
what they have.”
She decided to become a Muslim after visiting Iran and the shrine
of Fatima Al-Masumeh in the city of Qom.
"It was a Tuesday evening and I sat down at the shrine and prayed
to Allah to help the Palestinians who are suffering greatly. While
I sat there I felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute
bliss and joy”.
“I did not convert to Islam in Gaza because Allah did not call me
in Gaza. Nor did I say Shahada in Iran. But Allah did make me
aware of the beauty of worshipping him whilst I was in a shrine in
Iran, who can say why this was?
I converted when I returned to London and after I realized that
the need to pray to Allah was increasing, not decreasing despite
my distance from the Muslim world of the Middle East”.
She stresses she doesn’t believe in the Shiite-Sunni divide and
says she is just a Muslim who respects all those of this faith and
“wish only to pray alongside my Shiite and my Sunni brother and
Critics aside, Booth’s conversion has left many Muslims surprised
as to why she would leave her cozy Western world of acceptance and
announce publicly that she is a Muslim, considering the hysteria
of hatred and discrimination surrounding the faith.
“It is a duty not to walk away from a problem because it is
difficult, especially where the welfare of others is concerned. I
have felt for many years that the way Muslims are denounced as
violent terrorists by politicians and intellectually lazy
journalists is wrong and that is paving the way for more death and
killing across the world. This I have and will continue to
challenge in my work.
Booth is an optimist by nature. With all the negative press she
received she feels the compensation is the immense love and
support she is getting from Muslims around the globe.
“Today while I was shopping I was stopped and hugged by so many
sisters, mostly teenagers too! It's a real sign that far from 'all
being lost' as some Muslims sadly believe, that the true values of
Islam faith, kindness and generosity of spirit blossom even in the
harshest, most broken parts of major cities.”
“I draw strength, joy and real contentment from the thousands of
messages I have received on Facebook, most of which begin in the
same way. Assalum Alaykhum sister, welcome to the true, religion
of peace - Islam. Anything you need, your brothers and sisters are
here to help you.”
She adds with a smile: “Bismillah, with strong love like this we
can work together to improve this world. Inshallah.”