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From the Blog
An afternoon with Lauren Booth
Fontana CA - During her recent visitÂ to Southern California IFN met up with LaurenÂ Booth, a British Broadcaster and Journalist andÂ Human Rights Activist, extremely passionateÂ about the Palestinian cause. She is also the SisterÂ In-Law of the former British Prime-Minister Mr.Â Tony Blair.Â We met with a woman of the utmostÂ level of adhab (moral character) that can onlyÂ come from a deeply sincere appreciation for theÂ beauty that Islam has put in her heart. In her ownÂ words, âBeing a Muslim has made me a betterÂ mother, woman, friend and personâ. She sharesÂ the story of her journey to Palestine orchestratedÂ by Allah and she is very clear to give credit toÂ the people of Palestine for leading her back toÂ Allah.
Lauren Booth, a single mother of twoÂ young girls embraced Islam in 2010 whileÂ visiting the Shia Fatima Al-Masumeh shrineÂ in Iran. She made her belief public in an eventÂ with thousands of people at the Islam ChannelâsÂ Global Peace and Unity event in October 2010Â in London. At the time, she had visitedÂ Gaza many times. Two years before thatÂ time, in August 2008, she joined 46Â other activists who sailed to the GazaÂ strip from Cyprus.
Hearing the story of her journeyÂ to Islam brought tears to the eyes andÂ hearts of community members, MuslimsÂ and Non-Muslims alike who had comeÂ to hear her speak at the Al-RahmanÂ Masjid in Fontana, California on thatÂ Sunday afternoon. It was a fundraiserÂ organized by the Muslim Legal Fund ofÂ America.
Accompanied by her young andÂ bright daughter Holly, Lauren starts withÂ the story of Faris Odeh, the famous boyÂ who pelted stones at the Israeli DefenseÂ forces in defense of his homeland. InÂ death, he would become an icon ofÂ Palestinian Resilience, a hero, andÂ for Lauren a wake up call to what hasÂ become a lifelong mission to advocatefor a free Palestine. âEveryone, she says, âmustÂ know Faris Odeh the way they know Anne Frank, a youngÂ German who also died at age 15 and whose diary chroniclesÂ brought light to the injusticesÂ llaof the holocaust.â If she got a chance to meet Faris, sheÂ will thank him.Â
IFN: I hear you talk a lot about Faris Odeh, the youngÂ Palestinian boy, and I wonder if you ever got a chance toÂ meet him, what would you say to him?
Lauren: âBismillahi Rahmani Raheem- In the name ofÂ God, the absolutely merciful, the especially mercifulâ I neverÂ got to meet Faris Odeh because as you know, he was shotÂ in the neck by an Israeli sniper when he was age 15. I haveÂ visited his home town of Rafah in the Gaza strip. MaybeÂ I should make an effort to visit his family. If I met him, IÂ would say to him, you are an inspiration, your bravery andÂ courage, determination and trust in Allah have inspired me.Â
IFN: I always wonder, you seem to never mention Israel,Â you instead always say Palestine. I know that many advocateÂ for a two state solution, what are your views on that?
Lauren: Israel has no borders. It is the only country inÂ the world that has not said where its borders begin or end.Â Therefore, I do not accept the state of Israel because it hasÂ not seen fit to define itself. Worse than that, the land wasÂ stolen from the Palestinian and given to the Zionist invadersÂ in 1948. They have succeeded in making Palestine theÂ greatest concentration camp in the world. The little land leftÂ for the Palestinians has hundreds of thousands of Israelis.Â So what two state solution? I donât want to hear about a twoÂ state. The Palestinian people have bullets flying at themÂ from all angles, they have their water and resources stolen,Â they donât see a two state. There is only one state and thatÂ is Palestine and if the Isrealis are kind and behave, they canÂ stay.Â She quotes the Arch-Bishop of Cape town, Desmond TutuÂ who after his visit to Gaza said that the Palestinian problemÂ is worse than Apartheid.Â It is emotional to think and talk about Apartheid so LaurenâsÂ daughter, Holly who is sitting at the table prompts theÂ ideal distraction. Lauren is helping Holly with her coloringÂ book and we continue our chat.Â
IFN: What has changed about your role as a mother, aÂ sister, a friend since you became Muslim? Â
Lauren: I am really grateful that I had motherhood givenÂ back to me. I had allowed it to be eroded by a wish to haveÂ âmeâ time. We are sold this idea that family is a burden onÂ the woman. I want to go and have a massage, I donât wantÂ to be with my kids, letâs do quick fix meals, cooking forÂ your family is such a burden âyawnâ kids homework âyawnâ.Â I wanted the children to go to bed so that I could have myÂ cigarette and my glass of wine. I cut down on their readingÂ time, I cut down on their nap time so that I can have âmeâÂ time. I am not different than any other mom. With Islam, IÂ got myself back and my kids got their mother back. I wasÂ exactly as busy as I was before I became Muslim but AlhamdulillahÂ (praise be to God) when I am with my children, IÂ donât want to rush anywhere.Â And then Holly cuts in with her very cute 8 year oldÂ voice.
Holly: When mom first said she was becoming a Muslim,Â we had three questions for her.Â I probed Holly to tell us what those questions and LaurenÂ urged her to go ahead and tell what was going on in theÂ mind of her and her sister during that time.
Holly: The first one was, will you still be our mom? TheÂ second one was will you still drink? and the third one was,Â will you still show your chest?
We all shared a quiet laugh and then I proceed.Â
IFN: And how have the kids grown with you, I see HollyÂ with a hijab on?
Lauren: We are at a Masjid (Mosque) today so HollyÂ chooses to cover her hair out of respect but she is not oldÂ enough to have to wear it. It will be her journey and it willÂ be completely up to her to wear it. I did not bring Islam toÂ them, when I told them about the one God, they said, weÂ knew this all the time and they tell me things about IslamÂ that I still donât know and that is incredible to watch.
IFN: What do you think is the responsibility of otherÂ women like you who have a voice?
Lauren: At the moment, the reversions in the west, inÂ America and Britain are 70-80% women and only 20-30%Â men. I think Allah is bringing women to Islam. Among thatÂ 70-80%, many of them are educated White women. So whatÂ is the adjustment that Allah is making to the Ummah? ThisÂ is what we need to look at. I feel that it may have to do withÂ justice towards women and a recognition of the true Shariah,Â equality of women and not this cultural phenomenon whereÂ women are abused in different parts of the world under theÂ auspices of men who call themselves Muslims, pervertingÂ Islam in order to control women, that has got to change. ItÂ is Allahâs will, he is sending many more educated women toÂ Islam so we need to pay attention to what Allah is doing.Â IFN: So what is the added role of those women? DoÂ they need to be activists? Do they need to seek moreÂ education?Do they need to do more?Â Lauren: The first duty is âDo you understand Islam? DoÂ you have a good relationship with Allah? Are you acting onÂ the principles of Islam daily? I donât recommend that anybodyÂ leap forward to do anything until they have understoodÂ that. You have to perfect your Deen (Faith). Let us perfectÂ our Deen and please Allah and then the direction will beÂ clear . Ah will direct us.
IFN: So in closing, what are your future aspirations as aÂ Muslim woman?
Lauren: Really, I donât think of that. Two years ago, IÂ didnât know that I was going to be Muslim so I donât thinkthat I can be arrogant enough to tell you that I have [...]Â plans. I just pray that I learn Arabic and that I can somehowÂ continue to help the people of Gaza and also to work againstÂ domestic violence. I want to help revert sisters who are notÂ being treated well when they come to Islam. They shouldÂ have the best of the men to marry them, this is the way ofÂ the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is not the case today,Â there is racism in our deen (religion) . You speak to BlackÂ reverts and some sections of the asian community wonâtÂ marry them to their children, Astaghfirullah (We seek refugeÂ from God), we are one Ummah.