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Lauren Booth

Channel: Lauren Booth

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

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Salam aleikum. Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh. My name is Lauren bufala. Journalist and I'm a broadcaster. And I'm an actor and a writer by the Grace of Allah. And I've been Muslim since 2010. I wasn't born Muslim. Guess what I was born in London to parents who had lost their face. They were 1960s people in a famous circle of friends. And so they had lost their face. But I always grew up knowing that there was one God. In fact, my mom called me a few months ago, and she said, the family had been discussing why you've become an extremist in religion. I said, Oh, okay, what did the family say? What did you say, mom? And my mom said, Well, you were always a weird kid. And I said,

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How was I weird, she said, you're always praying, you know, you just go to your room, I'm just gonna ask God about this matter. So I was, I was a pious kid without any any knowledge. But it's not easy. It's not easy in any age, but in this day and age, to hold on to faith in your teenage years. So I became a kind of celebrity in my late 20s.

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Mostly because my brother in law was the Prime Minister. But I certainly made the most of my moments of attention. And it becomes very, very toxic, very addictive. Celebrity is addictive, wants people that are looking at you, and admiring you, and wanting you to come to give you things, alright, celebrities a lot about being given stuff, you get free clothes, you can get a free car, you can get free holiday. And then and then you get lots of free attention. So nowadays, it's like everybody's a celebrity on social media, how many likes only 70 likes, I want 80. I want 90 I want I want 100,000 likes, and it's a it's completely having been, I know about drugs, I know about drink, celebrity and

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social media is more addictive. And sugar actually,

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in my in my in my experience. So I definitely wouldn't say that in my 20s I was on any spiritual journey, I was on a complete, nasty, nasty celebrity journey. And I was content with that. When I say actually, content isn't the right word. I was okay with that. I was okay with that. But I was getting myself into situations which were ugly, with people who are in a very low moral state, which to be honest, they're fine was this high, the moral state was in the gutter was really really, you know, degrading circumstances for the human being to be in. But it looks great on the front cover of a magazine. So there's this big disparity that I started to notice. And may Allah forgive me, I was

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very selfish. I was a selfish human being. Because I was so involved in my own drama, the drama of life.

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And

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really, what everybody wants to know from a converters. Okay, so when did you wake up? How did the wake up happened? Right? Yeah, I guess that's what everybody wants to know.

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You know, for women,

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possibly for men as well, but definitely for women. The Wake Up is having a baby. Right? Your body changes, you're aware that something inside you need you, you have to calm down. I had three miscarriages because I've drink and drugs. May Allah forgive me. Right, had to calm down. And then when the baby is born,

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I'm going through the pain of childbirth. It to me it was like it was ripping a reality it was ripping from one place of just table chairs, lights to something else I saw through a veil. And there was beauty there and there is creation there and there is hope there. And I wanted to go there with my child. So that was one of the changes that I went through. That was in 2000.

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And in the same time as my daughter was born I remember watching the news on TV one night, my baby was very small. I was breastfeeding her and there was a photograph of a boy.

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Um, you know, when you give birth, if you haven't given birth, yet you need to know this, that you become very sensitive. It's like all of the layers of of of ugliness and of sarcasm and of self obsession appealed away, and you want the world to be a better place. You really want the world to be a better place. So I was watching the news this night with

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My new baby and there was a photo of a boy. And the boy was small. But he was 15 it was the news. And he was standing like this.

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And all you could see was his back. And only a little bit in front of him, there was a tank and the tank was coming towards the boy. Now, if a tank came towards you and me and this, you know, a situation we are in right now, you and me, we'd run the other way, right? That's the human instinct. But this boy, this little boy with a stone in his hand, was leaning into the tank.

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And I was just thinking, you know,

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I was just thinking runaway runaway. You strange Middle Eastern child, you strange, alien child in a in a, in a place of dirt in refugee camps, just go home. Just go home, your mom's waiting. And it was very raw. And the place that he came from was Gaza,

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which I didn't really know about. The place was called Palestine.

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But I didn't know that 10 days later. Faris eau de was shot dead by an Israeli sniper. And he died he bled to death on the floor of a refugee camp, protecting his family with a stone.

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That and the color of Allah is the only explanation I have for everything that's happened since.

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Five years later, I found myself asking to go to Palestine. It was like, there was a voice in my head saying go to Palestine go to Palestine go to Pilate. Why don't we go to Palestine? By this point. I'm living in France. I've got two daughters, nice husband, big house swimming pool. You know, we're in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful parts of all of Alaska.

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And I want to go to Palestine. What is that? That is that is what you call a calling. And what we recognize in in this in this world, is that all of us have a cooling away from from materialism. So I found myself in 2005 Thanks be to God in Palestine. And I thought that I knew the story there. I'd gone to find the truth. This is another word that you might recognize in your life. whoever's watching this, may God bless you. Wherever you come from wherever going, God bless you. Watch out for the signs that you're being called to truce, and go with it. That's that's all I can say is go with it. Okay, so I went to Palestine, and I was scared.

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I was scared of Arabs. Yeah, definitely. Arabs, Arabs with guns. Arabs with loud voices.

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That's how it sounded to my English is I remember I was being shown into my interview with Mahmoud Abbas from the Palestinian Authority. First day in the West Bank, and there were two big bodyguards Palestinian bodyguards either side of me, right? They both had big guns. They both had walkie talkies. And I was they put me into an elevator was like a movie. And then one of them said the data were there, Laura Bucha data book ranch Allah. And in my mind, the subtitle said, We will kill the white woman later.

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I was shocked. I was really shocked because I thought, oh my god, I'm I'm a racist. I'm a racist. I presume that just because these guys are Palestinian. And just because I'm white, they're going to kill me. Where did that talk come from?

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Here's the amazing thing.

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Three days later, I traveled around the West Bank on my own. Right. They forgot to tell me in the right in the media where I was working. This is how you go to Palestine. You stay in your hotel room, you make phone call, they come to you don't go outside, because that's what they tell journalists. Don't make them Muslims. And Muslims are dangerous. You might get kidnapped. Okay, you might get disappeared. You'll never come back. They'll lie to you. But I didn't do that. I just went Maha Maha. If somebody drove past and said, Get in my car. I said, Okay, I'll get in your car. And so, by the Grace of Allah, I went all around the West Bank. I went to Janine I went to Bethlehem. I

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went to nab loose on my own.

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And I saw a different reality.

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And there were two things that stayed with me there.

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One was that we're being lied to that the media alias about Muslims.

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And the second one was that I knew nothing about Christianity. And the Muslims knew more about Jesus than I did.

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And that there was three things. The third thing was I should read the Quran because the people were so generous and

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Hein to me as a stranger kind of than anybody in my family or any of my friends had ever been, and so gentle that I wanted to be like them.

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But it took a long time. Because the thing is,

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you don't just get to walk into Islam. You know, Allah is great, and He knows our condition. And we have to be, we have to be, we have to get out of our old habits to some degree. You know, and I had to be deprogrammed. I had to have my rough edges cut off, you know, knocked off me before I was humble enough to say Leila Hill Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah, which is the Shahada. I believe in the Oneness of Allah. And I believe the Prophet Muhammad isn't last and final prophet. I had a very traumatic time. In 2009, my family had a traumatic time.

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But as the mother, I had a traumatic time, and I'll just capsulated like this. In January 2009, I had a husband and a house, and a job in October 2009, I had no husband, no house, no job, I'd moved back from France, no money, no nothing. And it looked like my children were going to be taken away. Allahu Akbar, that is, in nine months.

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I didn't know what to do.

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And it got to the stage in October around October 2009, when I was in a rented flat, which I couldn't afford, back in London with no car with a court case, trying to take my children away from me, when I put my head to the ground, and I said, a lot, just my children.

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Because I understand that life is not about money anymore. It wasn't about the swimming pool. It wasn't about the great job.

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It just my kids, let me learn about life and just my kids. And I said sorry to God. And a month later, in 2010, I went to Iran. And I went to the journalist, not on a spiritual journey at all. I just went to look around. And I ended up in Ramadan, in a mosque.

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And I sat down in the mosque, and it felt as if I was under a waterfall of peace, a waterfall of peace. If you can imagine all the tension of that year I was starting to have like feelings of a heart attack. You know, that whole year, you know, when you're so under pressure, they talk about stress. So I was going to die from a heart attack. And at that moment in that mosque,

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everything just went and I knew I knew the universe was peaceful.

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And I knew that everything was going to be okay. Subhanallah and a week later back in London, I walked into a mosque and I said there is no God Allah alone and without partners. The Prophet Muhammad was the last and final messenger and suddenly Friday night I was a Muslim low equity

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what's interesting, you know what people

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so I worked in the mainstream media right I worked for right wing newspapers as a left winger, I'm I'm a liberal. I don't even know what that means anymore as a Muslim. But anyway, you know, I wasn't right wing. I was considered myself a liberal. And

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working I worked in the mainstream of newspapers. And was there anything and so as soon as I came to Islam, there's only two things that the right wing media can write. If someone who is sane, because I clearly wasn't mad. If someone who is from them. I had a page in the newspaper in the in the Mail on Sunday, I was a regular columnist. I was on TV on Sky News regularly, suddenly turns up in a head job. It's like, okay, two options.

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She can't cope with life, or she's having a midlife crisis. Because if it's not one of those two, then maybe there's a God. And maybe that God, the One God calls himself Allah,

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and they can't do that. So I got treated immediately, like a written about you get written about as if there was something missing. You were at a loss, you couldn't cope. So here's the crutch of a faith that you don't understand. There you go. I mean, this rhetoric really is far right rhetoric. I had a nice life. I had good parts and had difficult and fun parts. I wasn't looking for face. Faith by the Grace of Allah came to me, but I did want to be kind.

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And I did want Palestine to be free. And only Allah knows. Was it though?

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Things no because it's never anything that we've done that would be Reagan's only Allah's mercy we all get a chance to come to Islam. So no, I wouldn't say I was missing anything

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crazy thing is that I knew nothing about Islam when I took my Shahada. Yeah, really, really mad. Many people I know study and but Allah knows see there's as many routes to Islam as there are there are human beings. So if you're a technical person, you may go line through line and ask questions of a share for two 510 years and go up okay now I get it, I'm satisfied. If you're an academic, I'm I'm a people person. I was trained as an actor, you know, I grew up I grew up in a, you know, in a literature environment. So for me, it was always going to be how does this faith affect the people? If I if I, if I can see in the people something better than me, then that's interesting to me. So

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amazingly, might might, we might seem to Muslims, because we're always very down on ourselves, you know, stuff Allah, you need to stop that postcolonial nonsense.

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My route to Islam was really through the people of Palestine and the Muslims that I met in the UK. And the first time

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I read that I read a section of the Quran in 2007. I read Surah Fatiha, it's an opening. And if you're not Muslim, you'd recognize the opening of the Koran sounding a bit like the Lord's Prayer. If you read surah baqarah.

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And you're in a sinful disbelieving state, it's gonna it's gonna hit you like a brick. It hit me like a brick is an ayat in there that says

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they do. It's to do with they pretend to be believers, when they're with believers, but when they're on their own with their shaytaan, complete hypocrites, and I realized I was a hypocrite.

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I told people I believed in God, but I didn't pray.

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I said to myself, oh, all my children, let's believe in God, but I didn't act like a believer, I acted like a non believer. And this book told me I was a liar. And I was going to hell and it scared me.

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So without picking up the Quran again, I took my Shahada. And then I had to go back to the Koran.

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Pamela, but when I picked it up, so Rebecca, I said, Welcome, be at peace. Everything is going to be okay. Allah will give you general you have to do is draw closer to Him. And it was it was an eye opening.

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When I was young, I didn't really I didn't know anything about Islam and the 80s, early 90s. I just knew there were Asian people who did weird stuff, and they had their exotic gods. And it was probably very colorful, and there are probably Muslims probably prayed to about 12 gods, and I completely confused it with Hinduism didn't care. And then, after 911 I felt sorry for Muslims. Because I thought, Wow, it's really unfair, that the poorest people on the planet are being bombed by the richest people on the planet. It doesn't make sense. Afghanistan, Iraq, what was that? I didn't like what I was seeing. So I began protesting against the war in Iraq. Then I found out about

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Palestine. And I took steps by the Grace of Allah to try and do what I could to bring attention to Philistine.

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Actually, because I was 43 When I came to Islam, and because I've been to Palestine by ship, and by either no all different ways, my family kind of thought I was crazy anyway, by this point, so I go now it's this long. Oh, right. Okay. So, but it started to bite after a while. Oh, you're really going to keep the scarf on. I you. It's not just a fad. No, it's something that that I need to do. For my faith. It's something I believe in. And then you start praying in your mom's house. She's like, ah, but she was okay. To be fair, she never stopped me praying. But there were a couple of times when, even recently, actually, you know, I had to speak to my family because they were serving

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alcohol at the table. And I said, You know what?

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I can't do this. I can't it just is not right for me to sit here. I know it's your house.

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But do you might you know, I'm not going to ask you not to drink but I'll just go and sit at another table said what about your mom? So my mom is 80 years old. She can do what she wants. But you're younger and you know, I'm a Muslim. If you choose to drink now it's your house or go and sit somewhere else. But for me, I'd rather not

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So there's there's all these kind of little sticking points, but honestly, they've been really, really good. That hasn't been a problem for me I'll hamdulillah Chicago

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the media was horrendous. The media was horrendous. I went from being a part of the media to being like a seen as a criminal. I walked into Sky News after a month, and I finally had the nerve to put on my hijab. Because before that, I'd be going to Sky News and taking it off in the car. And then I read an ayat in the Quran about the hypocrites who do one thing and then don't do it. And I'm like, Oh, my God, I'm a hypocrite. I'm pretending to the TV. I'm not Muslim. I'm just so I went in with hijab and everybody went, Hi, Laura.

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Never forget it. And then I remember going into where they do the makeup and she was like, shall I do your hair? I'll just do a little bit of fine. I did exactly the same job as I'd ever done for 10 years. Same job talking about the newspapers, same up same kind of opinions. And they said, thank you very much. But there was one difference. On the Monday, next Monday morning, I got a phone call, Laura, and we're changing things around, we won't be using you anymore. Thanks very much. Take care. Now, I can't prove that that was to do with me converting. And you will notice there are now hamdulillah lots of women on the mainstream news, not lots, but there's a number who have hijab, but

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are they converts

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and they converts the world is not ready for converts to be seen. The western world is not ready for convicts to be seen as rational human beings. Because how can you be rational when you believe in Allah and all that stuff from the Middle East and they have always confused ideas so

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so that was difficult.

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It was only difficult in that it impacted me financially. Because I literally didn't care. I didn't care. Call me a terrorist sympathizer, I don't care. I've got my Koran, got my love, got my kids. I don't care.

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So I you know, and hate and hate and hate for four years, four or five years, hatred. And it didn't matter at all because everything is when Allah and Allah will choose the path as long as we stay the course steadfast, steadfast, steadfast.

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So I'd say this to anybody who has a feeling in their heart, maybe Islam is the right way.

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You might come from Russia, or Texas, or France, or South America or parts of Africa from a Christian family. Don't be afraid.

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Never fear. When you when you take the past to Allah, everything is lifted, because you know what, our sins are gone. And it nothing nothing you've experienced so far can replace that feeling. And don't be afraid as well. Because everything will make sense. You know, the feeling of I don't know why I'm getting up in the morning. The feeling you might be having of this world is so crazy. I don't know why I'm here.

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When you when you study Islam, when you live a Muslim life when you speak to a live every day. Everything makes sense. You will know why you're here, where you go to next, and how to make things better.