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Booth rejects Blair’s ‘Islam is a threat’ doctrine and becomes a Muslim

Friday December 10, 2010 12:31:52 PM, Shabana Syed

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 humanity.”

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 anti-Islam rhetoric.

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 the reality”.

“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 sisters.”

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.”


(Courtesy: Arab News)





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