Former captive Yvonne Ridley now a Taliban fan
Author: Joe Fiorito
Source: Toronto Star, February 26, 2003, p. B02
Original title: Former captive now a Taliban fan
To the university of a snowy evening to hear a British journalist tell tales of war.
You may recall Yvonne Ridley. It was she who, in a burqa and atop a donkey, snuck into Afghanistan under the nose of the Taliban, just as the bombing was about to begin.
The donkey was mulish and intractable. Ridley bent forward to grab the reins. Her camera slipped on its strap and it gave her away. She was nabbed and spent 10 days in captivity.
Unexpectedly, the Taliban- by most accounts a gang of dim and brutish yokels- won her heart by treating her with courtesy and respect.
This story was greeted with enthusiasm by some 200 people, young and old, Muslims mostly, along with a smattering of the local anti- war crowd.
Such enthusiasm was fuelled, in part, by Ridley’s promise that she would read the Qur’an if released; by her sharp anti- Americanism; and by her unwillingness to demonize her captors.
She is now deep in the study of the Qur’an, and while she hasn’t converted yet, she says she will soon. And if I were Muslim, given the tenor of the times, I, too, would have been buoyed.
Instead, I’m confused. Not by her conversion; the Muslim faith has as many virtues as any major religion. No, I am confused by Ridley’s fondness for the Taliban.
She says she was treated with respect, as if that proves the Taliban are, poor things, misunderstood. I think it proves that she was a prize of war, a potential bargaining chip, more valuable alive and well than otherwise.
She recalls with fondness an Afghan woman who, on learning that Ridley had only had one child, said, “You’re so pathetic, you western women; you produce one and I can produce 15. When you run out of boy soldiers, I will be producing more.”
How Ridley reconciles this with her feminist, anti-war stance, I don’t know; maybe you had to be there.
She also told us of the visit of an important Muslim cleric whose ivory gown and turban were spotless while everything else in the immediate vicinity was covered with dust. She was mightily impressed by his cleanliness. I, too, like my clerics clean, but I have a hunch that women who might otherwise have been in school were the ones doing the wash.
At the end of the lecture, Ridley was asked if her career suffered when she took up the Muslim cause.
She said, “I haven’t lost any friends. People are curious. My sister lives next to a Muslim woman; they now talk. My other sister thinks I’ll become a suicide bomber. My mother is upset that I’m converting. My parents just moved; they started going to church again; teas and so on. And I said, ‘You see, Islam is having a positive effect. You’re getting more spirituality in your life.'”
Make of that what you will.
The crowd loved it.[…]
Joe Fiorito usually appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.