By Sakina Mohamed
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 (Bernama) — A hundred thousand people in the United Kingdom have converted to Islam in the last decade, says broadcaster and journalist Lauren Booth.
Yet the reaction of the British media towards this piece of revelation, and others related to Islam, have been dramatically negative.
Even its most liberal broadsheet, The Independent, billed the growth of conversion to Islam as the “Islamification of Britain”.
“Remember”, says Booth, “these are not racist pamphlets handed out by people on the borders of our society, this is our most highly respected broadsheet.
“You’ll get the idea that joining Islam is not really the trendy thing to do,” she chuckles, alluding to the slanders and mockeries thrown her way by the British press since she announced her conversion in September last year.
A quote by The Independent revealed just how negatively the British viewed her conversion: “What sort of woman freely converts to a religion that supports the torment, oppression and murder of thousands of Christians, homosexuals and spirited women worldwide?”
“That is insane,” Booth tells a 300-strong audience in a public lecture at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, recently. “There is no critical thinking applied to Islam. None of the big philosophical questions were asked, when I wanted them to be asked so much. After I’d done interviews in Britain I was waiting for questions like “What is Allah like?” “What do you know about the Prophet (Muhammad)?” “What does it mean to pray five times a day?” “Is Islam spiritual?”
“But what I got was “Is that hijab tight on you?” “Don’t you miss going to the pub?”
RELIGION NOT POPULAR IN THE UK
Booth says the phrase “living in the middle ages” is regularly applied to the perceived Muslim way of life.
Instead, he British and American way of life is considered modern to be aspired to.
Islam is regarded as incompatible with British values, which was once a Christian nature, but no longer upheld or observed in any meaningful way. Booth herself was a Jew, but wasn’t brought up in a religious background. She claims that most children of white ethnic origin in Britain did not have a religion. It was only out habit that parents would put Christian in the census box.
“Certainly in my generation, nobody went regularly to church. And yet I did use to pray. As a seven-year-old, I would put my hands together and speak to God.”
LIBERTY EQUALS NUDITY
“We presume that we are emotionally and psychologically richer than Muslim women,” says Booth, “but in our society now, liberty equals nudity.
She says as a woman in Britain, one has the right to wear “as little as possible at any given time”.
“You also have a need to look beautiful for men all the time at any age right up to retirement. If you don’t make the effort to titillate every man you meet and be attracted in a sexual way, you are “letting yourself go”.
“One of the worst things you can look like is like “a mother”. This is reflected in one of the insults that we have in our society – to look “mumsy”.
The role of motherhood is considered a dead end Imagine that.”
She says it was a sad thing that women had nowhere to grow to nor any aspiration to what they can become.
“Once you stop being sexually attractive, you only have death. So there’s being gorgeous and looked on by men and then there’s death, no in between as far as society’s use for you goes.
“But remember guys, this is liberty.”
SEXUALISING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
She says the West has built a whole society around the reliance on sexualising women and children.
Two years ago, a major high-street chain sold thongs for 7-year-old girls. On the front panel was inscribed “so many boys, so little time”.
“And it had a cherry on it!” exclaims Booth. “For 7-year-old girls!”
However, she says she was happy that mothers in Britain reacted promptly to the distasteful product. Outraged and sickened, they came out in droves and set fire to the underwear in protest.
But Booth says the fact that a major company could think of making and distributing such article of clothing was telling on women’s standings in society.
The Playboy brand, which advocates young girls as playthings for men, is now on pencil cases for children as young as six.
The high street is reliant on fashion, hair products, make up.
“Because you’re worth it, we’re told. When the real message is, because you’re worth nothing else,” says Booth.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MUSLIM WOMEN
Booth admits her patronising views of Muslim women prior to her conversion. However, the trips she has taken to the Middle East as a journalist and in her capacity as a human rights activist, revealed to her the personality of Muslim women which she had never associated with.
Recounting a 2007 trip to Lebanon to interview a commander with the Hezbollah militia, Booth says she met female university students in full hijab who were outspoken, witty and charming.
“They were not at all the timid, soon-to-be-forced-into-marriage girls I would have imagined from what we often read in the West.
“They accompanied me to the interview a sheikh, and I was amazed of how freely they interrupted him while he talked, putting up a hand to ask him to pause while they translated.”
Back at home in the UK, Booth was filled with admiration for young Muslim women with two children, cook for their families, study for their medical degrees at night and can still do volunteer work on the weekends.
“Compare this to one of my non-Muslim friend with only one child who can barely hold down her part-time job without complaining about, don’t cook for their families and much less do a degree in evening or volunteer work!”
She attributes the energy to family and societal support as well as from prayers.
“I also think it’s from intelligence and no alcohol!” she laughs.
GODLESS SYSTEM LETTING THEM DOWN
She says she now realize that emotionally and psychologically, Britain was poorer in the third world in many ways.
She says the UK has been accused of failing its children on childhood welfare coming bottom of the league table across 21 industrialized nations.
Despite being a rich country, the Children’s Commissioner for England says that the UK is churning out a generation of young people who are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in risky behaviour, who have poor relationships with their family and their peers, who have low expectations and do not feel safe.
Meanwhile, UK Report findings reveal childhood poverty has doubled since 1979 while 31 per cent of children admit being drunk on two or more occasion.
“So hooray for freedom and liberty. Hooray for a world without a God and without ethical guidelines.
“Who can we blame but ourselves and our lack of moral guidance?” she asks.
Booth was in Malaysia as a guest speaker for Viva Palestina Malaysia, a local offshoot of the UK-based Viva Palestina, an international non-governmental organisation working for the speedy creation of a free Palestinian state.