Surprisingly, almost as many Western women are converting as men. In America, one in four converts is a woman; in England, the figure is one in two. British journalist Yvonne Ridley converted to Islam after being held captive by the Taliban during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Working as a reporter for the Sunday Express in September 2001, Ridley was smuggled from Pakistan across the Afghan border. But her cover was blown when she fell off her donkey in front of a Taliban soldier near Jalalabad. The formerly hard-drinking Sunday school teacher became a Muslim after reading the Quran on her release.
She represents a trend of conversion in the West precisely among educated women, who like their male aspirants are in search of spiritual fulfillment, their own "feminist" holy grail. What do her Church of England parents in County Durham make of her new family? "Initially the reaction of my family and friends was one of horror, but now they can all see how much happier, healthier and fulfilled I am. And my mother is delighted I've stopped drinking." What does Ridley feel about the place of women in Islam? "There are oppressed women in Muslim countries, but I can take you up the side streets of Tyneside and show you oppressed women there. Oppression is cultural, it is not Islamic. The Koran makes it crystal clear that women are equal."
Elizabeth L, a graduate in political science and the daughter of affluent white British parents says very movingly: "I know it sounds clichéd, but Allah came knocking at my heart. That's really how it feels. In many ways it is beyond articulating, rather like falling in love." As she read the Quran and prepared for her conversion, the September attacks came and went and failed to derail her spiritual journey: "I can see why people get fed up with the West. Capitalism is enormously oppressive."
October 1, 2007
This last excerpt from Eric Walberg's article, Finding the Inner Muslim Prince, deals with two women who have reverted to Islam: Yvonne Ridley and a woman whom I've never heard of before, Elizabeth L. Ridley was actually the subject of the second blog post I wrote, way back in August 2002.