Ridley plans to embrace Islam

Published August 22, 2002

Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist who was captured by the Taliban when she sneaked into Afghanistan last year, has announced her plans to convert to Islam.

In an interview with Newsweek in its latest issue, the woman who hit world headlines because of the dramatic way in which she entered Afghanistan on a mule wearing a burqa and was captured said she began studying Islam after returning home to Britain.

She denied that she was converting because she was suffering from ‘Stockholm syndrome’ (in which kidnap victims come to love their kidnappers).

During her captivity, an imam visited Ridley and asked her if she would like to become a Muslim. Ridley merely promised to study Islam once she was back home. But then what started as an academic study, she said, “has now turned into something much more spiritual. I am very impressed with what I’ve found.”

In a sense she owes her conversion to what happened in Palestine this summer during the siege of Manger Square. The Israelis were shelling the Church of the Nativity, the holiest shrine in Christendom, and the Christian world kept quiet.

As she put it, “Not one single church leader in this country condemned what was happening....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?”

On the contrary, her Afghan captors were “fanatical about their religion.” They prayed five times a day “regardless of what was happening,” kept calling her “sister,” and went through the ritual of washing her hands for her before meals, even though she was on hunger strike.

She was critical of the way Afghanistan under the Taliban was ostracized. The Afghans told her that nobody cared for them when they needed food for their people, but when they decided to destroy some “rocks” (the Buddha statues), “suddenly the whole world wanted to talk to us.”

Ridley’s account of her days in Taliban captivity were serialized by Dawn in October.

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