Captured by the Taliban, rescued by Islam

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: Islam Views: 12549

British journalist Yvonne Ridley made headlines when she was captured by the Taliban in 2001. She came out unscathed, and two years later, converted to Islam. Allan Koay finds out how her life has changed since then.

Barely had the ashes of the World Trade Centre in New York settled when Sunday Express journalist Yvonne Ridley found herself captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 10 days. She was duly released unharmed, and two years later, in a remarkable twist, she converted to Islam. 

Yvonne Ridley: 'I see the shocking images of Guantanamo Bay and ... I thank Allah I was captured by the most evil and brutal regime in the world and not by the Americans.' 

Ridley, who had gone to Afghanistan to report for the British paper, found herself becoming the news instead. And her story could not have been more full of surprises and irony.

Ridley, who was in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday to give a talk as part of a fund-raising effort for Islamic social service organization Al-Khaadem, was a portrait of calm and grace as she spoke about her experiences and the changes in her life. It was a picture far removed from her pre-conversion, hard-drinking, firebrand journalist image as described by the media.

On Sept 28, 2001, Ridley, then 43, was trying to cross illegally into Afghanistan from Pakistan. At a Taliban checkpoint, her donkey bolted and her camera fell out of the burqa she was wearing. She was subsequently thrown into prison, and questioned every day.

But to her surprise, the so-called "evil regime" treated her with respect and courtesy, and the men with the electrodes and torture tools never appeared. Instead she was given three meals a day, despite her hunger strike, and her captors even came to wash her hands for her at mealtimes. They referred to her as their "guest" and "sister".

"The whole experience had taught me a very valuable lesson, and that is not to believe propaganda that powerful people in powerful places want us to believe," says Ridley. 

"When I look back at my experience now, and I see the shocking images of Guantanamo Bay, and the horrendous images and stories emerging from the Abu Ghraib prison, I thank Allah I was captured by the most evil and brutal regime in the world and not by the Americans."

During her time in the Taliban prison, a cleric came to her one day and asked if she would like to convert to Islam. Fearing any response would be taken as adverse, she made a promise to him that she would read the Quran if she were released.

She kept her promise, and what started out as a purely academic exercise turned into a spiritual one as Ridley discovered that the Quran was not about oppression or violence but about peace, tolerance and understanding. Most of all, she was surprised to find that Muslim women were not subjugated or oppressed but were afforded equality. 

In August 2003, she embraced the faith. 

Life-changing conversion:

Today, Ridley, who admitted that she used to "work hard and play hard" and was a "prolific drinker", finds herself healthier, happier, and more content and fulfilled. 

"And my girlfriends can see this, and they ask: 'What is this that has changed your life so much?'" she says. "And I say it's Islam. And they say: 'No, really, what is it?'" 

Ridley has also become a fervent anti-war campaigner since her release. She has supported the Stop the War Coalition and traveled around the world addressing anti-war gatherings. She is a founding member of Women in Journalism and the patron of British organization Stop Political Terror, which looks into the welfare of Muslims in Britain, especially those being held in the Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons. 

She has written two books: In The Hands of the Taliban, about her experience as a captive; and a fictional thriller, Ticket to Paradise, which she says is banned in Israel because it features a Hamas fighter on the cover. She still writes for the Sunday Express, and also for Muslims Weekly in New York. She is currently involved with the Islam Channel, a satellite broadcast that started about a year ago in Britain. 

Hurtful comments:

One of the things that Ridley had to face when returning home from Afghanistan in 2001 was a media that accused her of being an irresponsible and selfish single mother (she has a daughter, Daisy, 12) and foolhardy to have entered Afghanistan at a volatile time. Others even claimed she did not enter Afghanistan at all but was picked up at the border in Pakistan. 

She regarded the views that came from her colleagues and the British press as outrageous, and saw no difference between their opinions and views and those of the Taliban, with regards to a woman's role in work. 

"I was verbally 'stoned' by journalists who picked on me as a single parent going into a war zone," she says. "And not one single male journalist I can think of has ever been questioned about his role as a parent. It made me realise then that we still have a long, long way to go to achieve any sort of equality. And what was most hurtful, because I am a founding member of Women in Journalism in Britain, was that most of these comments were from women columnists. 

"I just thought they've set the women's movement back two or three decades by questioning my integrity as a journalist ? to single me out and attack me as a mother. I thought that was a bit like shooting yourself in the foot." 

Political future:

Ridley also discovered to her surprise that during her capture, someone had tried to get her killed by sending a dossier to the Taliban that made her out to be a spy, a "female equivalent of James Bond". 

She claims that with help from her contacts and fellow journalists, she found out that the dossier had been prepared by the American intelligence and Mossad. She believes it was an effort to silence the anti-war movement. 

"Had I been shot or executed, this would have helped justify the bombing of Afghanistan. It would have further demonized the Taliban. I was told by one intelligence officer: 'Don't take this personally. It wasn't against you,'" she laughs. 

Putting all that behind her, Ridley has also made headway into the political realm. She is an active member of the RESPECT political party in Britain, a party born in January this year out of the anti-war movement that realized it had no political voice. 

"I stood as a candidate in the European elections and we got a quarter of a million votes nationally," says Ridley. "It didn't translate into a seat but we are going to be fielding candidates in the general elections which may be held in May next year. 

"What is particularly significant is if I am successful, I would become the first female Muslim politician to sit in Westminster and probably the first woman wearing a hijab to sit in the houses of parliament. 

"It's still a long way off, but there is a ground swell of support from people who feel as though they no longer have a voice in the party headed by a British prime minister who appears to prefer to take his orders from Washington rather than from the people who elected him."

 

Source: The Star


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  37 Comments   Comment

  1. Najma Shadani from Dhaka Bangladesh

    I thank Allah for all His mercies and for the fact that I was born muslim and now I feel like a muslim reborn. May Allah guide us all to remain and die as muslims.Ameen. See the beauty of Islam if only we read it !!! Yvonne Ridley has been chosen by Allah to be guided, how lucky she is!!!! to be Allah's chosen. Pray for us also Yvonne you are a very blessed person. PRAY THAT WE ALL UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE ISLAM AS ALLAH WILLED US TO. AMEEN

  2. fatma from germany

    Ijust want to say iam proud of you, at last you have found the truth you live in happy life iam happy for you, iwish you and your daughter all the best. iwill be praying for you to succed in your plans. INSHA-ALLAH.

  3. samira ahmed from Canada

    look at the beauty of islam! Allah shows us that anything possible...

  4. Umm Isa from bahrain

    Allahu Akbar. SubhanAllah. She was captured by the so called evil men of the world and then realesed adn reverted to Islam. Does this not show them all the peace in Islam. La ilaha illa Allah. There is NO God but Allah Swt.

    May Allah grant her duaa to be placed in teh british parlament of uk. She will surely show the non muslims of uk what Islam is.. Equal to women and not 500 years behind everyone else asd many brits so often say.

  5. imran from pakistan

    as salamo alykum

    sister in islam

    may ALLAH swt rewards and succeed u in the efforts u are making...inshaALLAH.we MUSLIMS are being opressed everywhere nowadays.the reason behind is that... we never collide.everyone is having his own opinion, based on his own intellect.opression and unjustice has been spreaded and backed by the one who has POWER(like AMERICA)SISTER u have spend some days with taliban---pls write another article explaining,

    WHY ATROSITIES LIKE SUICIDE BOMBING..MOSCOW THEATR,AND BASEL SCHOOL,HAPPENED.. WHATS THE REASON BEHIND.. AND HOW COULD WE STOP HAPPENINGS LIKE THAT....(we have experienced middle east peace process, "FAIR" trail of the ASSACINATOR of the thousands of innocent Bosnian muslims, the behaviour oF Child killer,expansionanist and colonialist ISRAEL towards peace process, indian opression in OCCUPIED KASHMIR .... and many more)if u go thourugly u will find out that its aginst muslims only...so why our WELL learned so called SCHOLORS dont realize this ... pls let us know why our BRAINWASHED scholors turn a blind eyes from the fact that opression results in resistance..(these our scholors are brainwashed by jewish media and keep on chanting PEACE).Peace doesnot mean they come and throw us from our homes...occupy ou land and kill our children..

  6. qazali from San Diego CA

    very amazing story and I am curius how I never heard about this story. We live in a world where is averything is controlled by the media and those who control the media, please let me know where I can get unfiltered stories similar with this kind

  7. Mohammed Sawood from India

    Assalamalaikum Sister, May Allah bless you with success in your mission. and raising the real status of women in the present society through the medium of Islam.

  8. Fatima Awad from USA

    Ridley's story is very compelling and is an example of the power of Islam. Even today, in a time where Islam has been made to look bad, truth reins and those on the side of truth are willing to embrace it. May Allah bless you sister and all who are like you. You have found strength to overcome the criticism of others who dwell in the realms of ignorance. You have chosen a path that restores your dignity as a human being, journalist, and Muslim woman. It is great to hear about all of the work you are involved in to help spread the truth and help women. I think that we need more Muslims like you. We need Muslims who are active in defending Islam through any means possible. You are fighting a jihad of words and we should follow your example so that misconceptions about Islam no longer continue to be propogated by people who only care about this world and have no value for human life. The only reason why they have gotten away with killing so many innocent people and occupying Muslim lands in a brutal way is because we Muslims as an ummah, have let them do so without defending our rights and religion that offers peace to the world like it did so many years ago before oppression was allowed to take over the world. Muslims can no longer be afraid because it is fear that has kept us silenced and therefore has let the oppression, repression, and suppresion of our rights and freedoms to continue. We have to be more involved in the political process wherever we live because chances are, that process is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims each day. Let's follow the example of this brave woman and let's unite. Surely Allah will make us victorious if we are on his side.

  9. Kulsum Ali from United States

    Assalamualaicum Sister Ridley!!! May Allah bless you with more blessings than you can imagine:). Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.. I pray that every happiness imaginable comes your way.

  10. Dalitha from USA

    I'm not buying this Yvonne Ridley story. My

    cousins lived in Afghanistan for years and the

    horror stories they told about the Taliban rival

    any Abu Gharib stories. Reports of the

    Taliban burning, maiming and torturing

    women for their own sick , perverse reasons

    dominated the culture of fear that existed there

    and in other Islamic countries for years. I'm

    so glad Miss Ridley was treated "with respect"

    by the Taliban. She must have had a rather

    unusual group of captors. This story is a lie,

    or a fabrication -- it's an attempt to paint a

    picture of an illegal gov't that was kind and

    gentle rather than brutal, ugly and perverted. I

    feel sorry for those who are fooled by this.

    Please open your eyes and believe what you

    hear-- women in countries ruled by Islamic

    leaders have little say in their lives and are

    treated decently only if the men in their lives

    have mercy upon them. They are generally

    treated as livestock without any rights

    whatsoever. How do I know? I lived there.

    Family members lived there. Trust me -- it's

    all true - The Ridley story is a complete lie.

    Peace,

    Dalitha

  11. Althia Collins from USA

    Al-Hamdulillah for this article. I embraced Islam six years ago, and I thank Allah for His guidance and mercy each day. As a professional woman myself who has been in highly visible positions in higher education, I appreciate seeing other sisters carry out their professional responsibilities while meeting their religious obligations at the same time.

  12. z from canada

    excellent ,but it takes a convert to fight against injustice and oppression, regular muslims dont do this even though it is their duty as a muslim.

  13. Hajj Muzenie from Malaysia

    Assalamualaikum Sister Ridley may Allah bless you.

    I'm sure your experience has changed your perception and opinion about Islam thus with Allah hidayat you found the truth in Islam.

  14. Nuraini from Malaysia

    many times it is difficult to see what good can come of a terrible situation, but stories like this remind me that Allah will sometimes bring good from something that seems very bad, like He did for Yvonne Ridley.

  15. Salah Eddine from Algeria

    I am really delighted that Ridley got such a happy end! end?! it's only the begining of a new life, where everything is real and true....

    May Allah bless you Ridley and make your voice louder all over the world ...You can do a lot and I fully support you ...

    Salah Eddine

  16. Eyad from USA

    Salam aleykum my brothers and sisters, i am glad this is on your webiste... it shows what islam is really about..

  17. Qazi Nurul Islam from USA

    British journalist siste Yvonne Ridley is showered with the mercy of Allah Subhana Taala. Insha Allah the truth will come out and all the people of the world will realize the truth behind the terror of the world for which the innocent people are suffering and being killed.

  18. amatulrahaman from USA

    Asalam alaikum I felt very proud and happy to read this article that she embraced Islam after that incident happened. May allah help her in fulfilling all her wishes.

  19. Bilal Yasin El-Amin from USA

    Praise be to Allah, The Most High, for our sister, Yvonne Ridley, and for and Allan Koay, who wrote this story. The story and comments on it are sincere and very encouraging. Allah, The Most High, is in charge of all affairs. He will bring about the best conclusion. We pray that more Americans and all people will read, understand and follow the Blessed Qur'an, a mercy to all humanity.

  20. Afghan American Sister, from USA

    Assalamu-alaikum!

    This is a wonderful article!! I was brought to tears upon its completion.It is so heart warming to hear and read about people realizing the truth about Islam...especially people who once were anti-Islam and after reading the Quran realized the truth about Islam. I wish sister Ridley success and I hope she gets elected to Parliament.

    Sincerly,

    An Afghan Sister

  21. Peter from USA

    Allahu akbar! An excellent article. I think that many would change their opinions regarding Islam (and probably convert) if they were properly informed what Islam is. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as I'm sure everyone will agree. We must address this, it up to us to inform people what Islam really is all about (I don't claim to know much, I'm new to this in many ways, but promise to do what I can), if they knew, I think things would be a lot better for everyone (an understatement, sorry!). I've told some of my friends, and they heard me with an open mind, their response was: "Really? I didn't know that!" My friends, I tell you truly, the truth will make itself known, and if we can be the vehicles of the truth, then we have been blessed by our Lord.

  22. SN from USA

    AsSalamu Alakum,

    I am so over whelmed with tears of happiness to

    hear, that you sister have been chosen by Allah (STA) to represent the world of Islam.. InshaAllah, you will be successful, which will be a huge step to help reveal to this world a postive approach to Islam.. I know this is why Allah (STA) has chosen you, just don't ever give up. You have been blessed. I will encourage other brothers and sisters to keep you in their prayers.. I hope to hear about you and your success in this new life that Allah (STA) has planned for you.

    Sister, I appreciate you sharing this article with us. I hope that this will encourage many

    others to ask themselves "what am I doing with this most precious gift that Allah (STA) has

    given me"? May Allah (STA) Guide you and yours.

    Also, thank you Isamicity.com for printing this beautiful article about this enlightened and forunate human being.. May Allah's Blessings and Guidance be you all.

    Thank you in advance for reading my comment..

    SN

  23. An Afghan sister from Canada

    AssalaamuAlaikum,

    Allahu Akbar!!!

    Indeed, whom Allah (subhanawata'ala) guides ,noone can misguide......

    A sweet article mashaAllah.

    Allah Hafiz

  24. An Afghan Sister from Canada

    AssalaamuAlaikum,

    Allahu Akbar!!!

    Whom Allah (subhanawata'ala) guides, noone can misguide 🙂

    A wonderful article mashaAllah.

    Allah Hafiz

  25. zia umruddin from United States

    It was a great pleasure to read this article and it once again

    consolidates the idea that Islam is and has always been the

    religion which has spread by its peaceful message.

    I pray for Sister Ridley for Allah's help in the tough path she has

    chosen which has a lot of challenges. This comes from Allah to

    test her so that she gets stronger with each diffculty thrown at

    her.

    May Allah bless her. She is an asset for Islamic Ummah.

    Thanks for all your effort.

    Allah Hafiz

    Umar

  26. Maryam from Germany

    A brother sent me an email today with the link to this article, allhamdulillah. I reverted to the Islam in April 2003. I've been in a camp of the Red Cross in Iraq during the war, for helping sick and injured people there. I experienced the same like sister Yvonne is telling about. People there have been so kind and caring. But after i came back i felt like being in a real war. People here blamed me for going to a war zone, told me i would be a bad mother (my daughter will be 12 in March). The real struggle started when i got back to Germany and it did not stop until today. But i am not complaining, Allah is giving courage and strength to me.

  27. Abdul from United States

    This is a very good article. Actually this is the best article I've ever read on this web site. All praise is due to Allah for this wonderful article.

    More non-muslims, especially American non-muslims, need to read articles like this one so, if Allah wills, their eyes will be open to the truth.

    It amazes me how many non-muslims pass judgement on Islam yet they haven't read one line of the Quran.

  28. Oliver Parsons from UK

    I am humbled by this fine lady's great courage. The men who call themselves journalists, politicians, clergy and those who stand as leaders of Muslim countries ought to be ashamed, for Ms. Ridley has done what they shudder to - speak the truth. All the power to her in her endeavours. The current daily slaughter of the innocent, the women and children in Iraq, and the same fate that was met by the hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and the horrible massacre of Japanese civilians back then, makes you realise that it is not Muslims who are the enemy and it is not Islam that is evil, it is he who kills, maims and tortures with wild abandon, to justify his lust for world's resources and to shove his creed down everybody else's throat.

  29. Megan O'Sullivan from USA

    I have just started to read up on Islam and I can fully understand how Yvonne felt. However its credit to her to have the honesty and courage to tell the truth about the Taliban movement. Sure there were some bad apples, heaven knows with half our Christian clergy busy groping little boys and stealing church funds, the Rabbis looting their synagogues blind, feeling up women and somehow legitimizing the numerous women partners they have other than their wives, we can surely not point any fingers. This is not the first time I have read the real facts behind the Taliban, as another journalist connected with the BBC spoke rather well of the Taliban and stated that apart from the 'Chador' which was a bit cumbersome, she had never felt threatened or unsafe while she was in Afghanistan under the Taliban. One of the reasons why I am so disillusioned with my faith is the astonishing level of bitter hatred and untruths being preached by our clergy in our churches and synagogues against Muslims and Islam. They freely talk about giving Muslims the choice to convert or face extermination. I am absolutely aghast at such bile and venom coming from men of God. Why are Muslims silent? In any case this made me think, that it is not the Muslims who hate us, it is we, who hate them. Hence my reading up on Islam and the Qoran and the philosophy of the faith which really is more a way of life than faith. I was thrilled at knowing through Islam that God is a loving, kind and forgiving God and not that fire and brimstone God that I was raised to believe. Mostly the concept of forgiveness is just fascinating. I do not have to go to some fellow and confess to him, Why should I? What authority does he have? I can simply confess and seek God's forgiveness directly without a middleman, and if my conscience is clear and I ask with a true heart, I know that I will be completely forgiven. Good heavens the more I write about it, the more I am convinced, Islam is the only way.

  30. Hakim from USA

    Allah's plans are perfect. Today the highest rate of conversion/reversion in the U.S. is among caucasian women. Remember -- teach a man and you teach one person; teach a woman and you teach a nation. The so-called powers that be realize this.

  31. Farah from sri lanka

    Dear Sister, Alhamdulillaah! reading your article was inspiring and wonderful. It gives us courage to live as better muslims. And thank you islamicity for posting it. May Allah bless you sister and help us all

    Farah

  32. Akbar Khan from Canada

    Assalaamu'Alaiykum,

    We Muslims should wake up from our slumber, we should embrace the wool/Soof of IHSAAN so that we can learn to soften our hearts and then convey the message of the Qur'an and Sunnah correctly.

  33. abdul from US

    First i like to thank this lady for her views she has.

    That is what I tell my non-muslim friends why don't you read Quran and Hadith yourself to find out the real ISLAM, instead of watching media and politicians.

    I dont think there is any religion teaches violence or hatred. But there are always extremists and radicals in all religions, encouraged / created by politicians and vice versa.

    Everybody is responsible for his/her action and will be dealt sometimes in this world or on the judgement day. No one can escape from the GOD's(ALLAH) action.

    GOD(ALLAH) knows the best.

  34. Ayesha from usa

    It was refreshing to read this article. I also think that more people should remove the "wool" from their eyes and looks behind the negative facades created about Islam. Congrats to any other converts.

  35. mariam hii from malaysia

    I am happy that Allah's blessing is with sister Yvonne as it is with me in finally finding the light. When I first started reading the Holy Quran, I was equally amazed with the findings in the Holy Quran on women and the message of peace and justice in the way of life for fellow Muslims. May we all do our part and spread the good news in our daily lives.

  36. Sandra L. Gillis from USA

    I so enjoyed the article. I am just now starting to read of the Quran. I am seeing a change in myselfe. And I have been a christian for many years. But I have felt that there was something missing and I feel that the Quran is what it was missing in my life. I am finding out that to be a follower of this faith you must know that God is your life and to know that he wants us to know him and to obey his prophet Muhammad. I am very thankful for a friend who is a Muslam. I am very glad that he was sent into my life. He is showing me that the Muslam people are not the evil here but the people who do not care and who are non belivers, Again thank you for this site and for letting people like me who is just learning to be able to see a side on which non belivers have not a clue. Sandra L. Gillis

  37. Pia Johansohn from Sweden

    As a convert myself to islam, I congratulate and welcome my sister Yvonne, and I pray for her. amazing how the truth gave her the courage to speak out and change. I too was initially ridiculed by my family and friends. But now when they compare my life to theirs and the peace and contentment and fullfillment I have, I have all my friends and many of my family reading the Koran and studying this "Evil" thing as portrayed by the Americans, Europeans and Israelis. I strongly suggest to fellow citizens of the world, to remove the wool from their eyes of bias, prejudice, arrogance, hate and pride and give Islam a look. Remember when we all die we will all be buried in the same soil. Don't be sheep and form your opinions based upon the say so of our media whose shameful anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bias is now quite overt. Just because we are Europeans, will not buy us any more time in this world or any better justice with God. Do your selves an immense favour and investigate Islam with a clear heart and mind.