Channel: The Deen Show
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Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim al hamdu Lillahi Rabbil aalameen us Salam aleikum, greetings of peace. Welcome to the show me your host. And my next guest was traveling. And she wasn't traveling to France. She wasn't traveling to Italy, Bosnia, America. She was traveling to Afghanistan. And she actually didn't have a visa she snuck in the country. And then she got captured. What happened to her next? Well, she's here on the D show to share her story.
This is the things
our next guest Yvonne really a set? alikum walaikum salam, gosh, when I listened to that assault, she must be barking mad.
Yeah, I hit it. So you didn't have a visa actually to get in the country. I did try. You know, I'm a lawful citizen. And I did try and get a visa. I tried three times. But the then spiritual leader of the Taliban had ordered all of the media out of the country, and
they refuse me three times. Well, most people are traveling to different locations, for vacation, but what brought you to at that time, you know, bombs are going up, bullets are flying, and you're sneaking in a country. I was after a story. And I was the chief reporter of the Sunday Express. There were 3000 other journalists assembled in Pakistan waiting for the water start. I've always been impatient. But I always Also, I'm incredibly competitive. And I thought what can I do that these 3000 others won't. And so I put on a burger and sneaked into Afghanistan ahead of the wall. And was there for two days and got some good material to write a story. But unfortunately, I was
caught on the way back and done fall by a rogue donkey. So you were actually captured by the Taliban? Yes, I was.
Initially they arrested me for illegally entering the country. And then they started to think that I was some sort of spy some sort of gi Jane character. And they didn't recognize my accent, which is the north of England near Scotland. And they must have assumed that we all spoke like the queen and of course we don't. So they thought I was an American trying to speak English.
Did they have a translator? How do you How are you guys communicating? Yes.
The doctor son in Jalalabad had the misfortune to speak Pashto, Urdu and English. So he was brought in to act as a translator during the interrogations. And he was called hammered. I've often wondered what happened to him. And he said to me, these people terrify me. And they should terrify you. Will you please just answer their questions?
And what what kind of questions were they were they asking you and where where were the so you're a British journalist coming to get the story. So where and so the British are there. At that time, the United States is there, they're all they're fighting Is that right? Now the fighting hadn't started. At that point, there was the build up to the wall.
You know, as well, as we've seen from the scenes coming out of Kabul airport, it takes quite a while to get people out in a major evacuation. It takes quite a lot of time as well to organize an invasion. And so the drums were beating to the wall. But I was told by somebody in the military, it's probably not going to stop for at least another two weeks. And I only intended to be in Afghanistan for a couple of days. So I thought I'll nip in and nip out before any bombs stop dropping.
So what was the story headline that you were chasing?
Um, it was really about people's hopes and expectations in Afghanistan. What became very clear quite
Soon was that nobody had TV sets, television was banned under the Taliban. And nobody had television sets in these rural areas where I was visiting. They
never saw the horrific events of 911. On, you know, they heard about it, they heard something bad It happened and a lot of people were killed. But they didn't see the graphic images that we saw, every 15 minutes on our screen for the next three, four weeks, it was just non stop. I don't know if you remember or not, but it was pretty full on. And so they knew that something bad had happened in America, but they couldn't understand what it had to do with them. Because there were no Taliban, no Afghans on the hijack planes.
And they said, if it is a sama, bin Laden, well, you know, get him, but don't bother us. And it was, it was quite interesting. But also,
I learned the character of the people, they were quite fearless, the women were incredibly strong.
I found some that had been educated in schools under the Taliban. And I found one young girl who was training to be adopted at
for medical students, under the Taliban. So that started to
put in some fracture lines that bush and Blair had claimed, you know, this evil, brutal regime, they don't allow women to be educated. And I began to realize that there was a little bit of topspin on that and that women were educated, maybe not, in some areas because of basic economics and no teaching teachers available. But
you know, I did meet educated women out in the countryside. So it's, it was quite eye opening. And the Taliban weren't feared or hated by these people, either. So that was interesting. are here, we're just trying to get to the truth. We've been getting a lot of requests to talk about this topic. And now somebody you're in your story is very interesting. We don't support any political party. We're not a part of any town. You know, we don't know much about the Taliban. Are you a Taliban Taliban spokesperson?
No, and I'm not the poster girl. And I'm not a fan of this. But I do speak the truth. And I can only speak as to what I have seen. I can only speak from the facts that I have gleaned. And you know, I remember about 10 years ago, being in Iran, and some very senior government officials said, will you brief us about the Taliban. And this
meeting room of about 30, very senior administrators from Tehran was sitting around. And I said to them, Do you want the truth? And they said, of course, we want the truth. I said, Well, I'm warning you now. Don't shoot the messenger, because you're not going to like this. And I told them about my experience. And some of them were furious. I said, You know, I asked you if you wanted the truth. And in some ways, I think, you know, if the Taliban had slapped me round, chopped off a hand, I'd be feted now from everywhere in the world, but because they treated me well. And I had the temerity to come out and say, they treated me with courtesy and respect. I have been verbally punched and kicked
deficits. What happened now? So you're, you get you're getting interrogated? How long? Were you? Were you were you in prison? How long were you now with them until you were set free? I was six days in Jalalabad at the intelligence headquarters, where I was grilled every day. They never touched me. They never threatened me.
I was absolutely terrified. Because I had bought into the propaganda. And this is what I'd say to everyone who's listening here today. Where did you get your facts from? How did you form these opinions? Because I was terrified.
I've just thought they're going to kill me these men hate women, they brutalized, they torture. They're barbaric. They're primitive. And you know what, I don't want any of this to happen to me. Let's cut out the middleman and just put me against the wall and shoot me. So I adopted a risky strategy, which is I became the prisoner from Hell, I spotted them. I swore at them, I threw things at them.
They walked out on the interrogations a couple of times, because they couldn't handle me. And
there was absolutely no bonding. So for anybody who was sitting there going, Oh, Stockholm Syndrome, sorry, sorry. But there was mutual loathing, and he tripped between me and the Taliban. And when they did release me on humanitarian grounds, I don't know who was happier, then on me when I crossed into no man's land, and even as I crossed into no man's land, as I got out of the people carrier, I got out backwards, because I thought, I'm gonna keep my eye on this slot, because as soon as I turn my back, they're going to shoot me. That's, you know, so I didn't trust them, give them one quarter, right up until the point that they released me. And it was only as I started to walk across no man's
land that I thought, you know,
they weren't that bad, after all. But
I look at the fear on people's faces in the airport in Cabo. I recognize that fear. That is how I felt for 11 days thinking, is this my last day? Are they going to kill me today? Are they going to torture me today? Is today the day? They go on to brutalize me? So I recognize that for you, whether it's it's rooted in propaganda, or a real lived experience, I don't know. But that fear is palpable, and it's very real.
And the same you know, it was for me, the fear was very real. But the the the fear was all appear it was all manufactured appear through the propaganda that I had been fed over the years. Yeah, many of us fall victim to that, you know, we're spoon fed with the media the mainstream media gives us. And then we form like you were saying, that's where we form our opinions from. So now you're seeing on firsthand basis, you're seeing things because you're experiencing these things. So you're, you're there. What else do you remember that stood out? I heard something about that. You were seeing that they would not even look at you. They were looking here, there and everywhere. And you took you took
that first as a sign of disrespect, but or something like that, because you thought they were going to kill you. So they couldn't look at you. But later you found out that that was actually a sign of respect. I had a feeling of deja vu, I was reading a report from a TV journalist who was interviewing Sahil Shaheen, one of the Taliban spokesman. And he, she wrote that it was a really creepy experience. She said, you know, she was looking at him and he was looking here, they're everywhere, but at her, and that is exactly what they did with me. Well, in my Western arrogance and ignorance, I thought, they can't look me straight in the eye. Because they feel so guilty. They know
that they're going to execute me and they can't look me in the face. When I told my first Muslim audience, some posh tunes in the crowd came over and said, No, no, no, this is a sign of respect. We don't stare at women. We avert our gaze. We don't you know, it's rude in our culture, to look at somebody. And so, I look back, you know, this meeting with the Taliban was a total clash of cultures. I knew about as much of their culture as they knew of mine, and it was a complete clash. Neither side understood each other.
There was looking back some amusing moments. And I remember the third or the fourth day, they came in very well, they were always very dour, but they came in and through the translator, they said
That you have lied to us. And I said, Everything I have told you is the truth. No, no. You didn't tell us you had a daughter. And I said, but you never asked me if I had a daughter. But you said you were single. I said, I am single. Well, how can you have a daughter?
And I? Whoa, do you have the concept of divorce in your crazy world? And one, you know, nodded his head briskly. And I said, Well, you know, my daughter's father lives there, I live here. We're finished. But
you know, we, we still keep in touch because of our daughter soap.
And the really angry looking one forward. And through the translator said, Well, why haven't you got married again? And I said, I have my own car, I have my own house, I have my own money, I have my own job. Why would I need a man. And it was as though I'd hit them with a cattle prod, they just sort of realized that this. And they got up and walked out in disgust. They couldn't, you know, they just wanted to get out of the room. They just
couldn't, you know, understand me, as much as I couldn't understand them. And whatever they thought of Western woman, they probably thought my god, they're even worse than we could have imagined.
So as to say it was a total clash. I suspect some of them are still being counseled from the experience. Well, at what point? Were you given a copy of the Quran? And how did that work? Was that like part of a negotiation? Look, we'll let you go. If you look into Islam, if you read the Quran, or the day just let you go and say, hey, look into this book, look into Islam. What How did that develop in this part of the story? The sixth day in Jalalabad, they invited me to embrace Islam. And I said, I couldn't make such a life changing decision. But they be sorry to
interject. But did they explain it to you or to just invited to you they give you kind of like a crash course. Oh, well,
this cleric who came in,
asked me what my religion was. And I just thought, Oh, you know, this is the part where I'm gonna be put up against a wall and shot. And I said, I'm a Christian. And he said, Yes, but what sort of pristine? Are you were Roman Catholic, are you a Protestant? And I said, I'm a Protestant from the Church of England. And he said, and what you think of Islam? Well, in truth, I knew nothing about Islam. I knew a little bit of thought I did. And that little bit that I knew was completely wrong anyway. And he said, What do you think of Islam? Oh, I said, it's wonderful. It's absolutely fantastic. And I went off in praise of this faith that I knew nothing about. And He then said, Yes,
Islam is a beautiful religion. And I sat back, and I again interjected, I couldn't agree more. And I went off in praise again, of Islam, and looking back to really showing my ignorance because I said, You know, I said, the people around here, love their face so much. They pray five times a day. I said, Imagine that five times a day. So you're observing you're you're you're observing people praying around you, and
oh, yeah, well, you know, as anyone will tell you, who's who's been in prison has nothing to do. And so what you do is you can't, you can't 20 strides forward, you can't 10 strides to the side, then you look at how fast the fan rotates, then you just count anything, you know, you can't two flies going up a wall. That's an event.
And, and so I heard this call to pray.
And it was called five times a day and I'm thinking, my goodness, you know,
they're really fanatics around here five times a day. And so this is what I was trying to convey to the cleric that the people around here are so into their religion, they pray five times a day not realizing that it's obligatory. So in
when I got back to learn
Didn't I thought about it. And because I had observed things and counted things and watched people, I realized that Islam was more than something that you pick up and put down after Friday prayers. It was the way you ate, the way you slept, the way you conduct yourself, the way you behave, how you wear your clothes, your, you know, just everything in their life, seem to be guided or influenced by Islam, entering a room Bismillah leaving the room and listening to my questions, various
things would, would come out. And so when I got back to London, I just thought, if I am going to report with any authority at all,
on the Muslim world, I've got to find out about this religion, I've made these guys a promise.
I've got this glaring all this vacuum in my head about Islam, I really need to feel it. So I started reading the Holy Quran, which I found very easy the English translation by a family. And it was very easy for me because I had been a Sunday school teacher, so I was well up on
the Bible. So here in the Holy Quran, the same characters, the same prophets, all the same, well, not all the same, but you know, the same people were coming up. And so it's very easy for me to go through and read it. And then I started reading supplementary literature, especially about
the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him because he was the only person in the Quran that I whose name I didn't recognize. And
so I started reading about, about him. And
I left it right to the end, you know, sort of doing everything in sequence and I read the farewell message. I wished I'd read the farewell message first. In fact, I tell everybody you want to know about Islam start from the end, and work,
work backwards. The farewell message was just an inspiration. And it is so relevant today. It could have been penned by somebody from the Black Lives Matter movement, it could have been penned from any oppressed group, it could have been penned by whoever wrote the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But it wasn't it was written by our beloved prophet peace be upon him,
you know, 1400 or so years ago, so
that was incredible. So after two years of studying Islam, and reading the Quran, I embraced Islam and joined what I consider to be the biggest and the best family in the world. And like any large family, we're constantly at loggerheads.
but you know, that that's
it really is an incredible faith. And
the Taliban are now in a position
where they can show how beautiful Islam is.
Or they can totally
fine, you know, once and for all people's perceptions of Islam and reinforce those prejudices that people hold against religion and against Islam. It's a very, very important position at the moment, you know, the world is watching, and anything they do
when you found out the deep love and reverence that the Quran that Allah God Almighty references to marry, there's a whole chapter obviously in the Quran, named after Jesus's blood mother named chapter medion. The love that we have for Jesus not as a god or literal Son of God, but as one of the messengers of God just like Abraham, Moses, Noah and all the other messengers that were sent, when you saw that there wasn't
There was this commonality, you know, which many Christians coming from the background, you were at, you know, the belief in one and only one God being morally upright, you know, being a good human being when you saw the, you know, many of those commonalities was it much easier, you know, to accept submission and surrender, because that's what Islam obviously means to acquire peace by submitting yourself to the owner peace, the creator, as an earth was at a much easier, you know, transition.
I struggled at the concept of the Holy Trinity, God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Ghost, and I rewrite the New Testament, and went back to the Quran. Then I spoke to scholars, because people knew that I was studying Islam, I was blessed with all manner of
scholars, you know, I had access to right across the Middle East some great names. And but I then also went back
and spoke to some Christian theologians as well, because I really struggled with the whole the concept of the Holy Trinity, and it was an ordinary brother, who opened my eyes. And sometimes, you know, we look for an answer. And we look at the stars and the moon, and it's there in front of us, and we just don't see it. And he said to me, why are you struggling? And I said, well, it's been drummed into my head from the kids, that God is the Father, God, the Son, God is the Holy Ghost. And I said, and this is the Holy Trinity. And he said, right. He said, What relation is john the baptist to Jesus? And I said, Well, they're cousins. And he said, right? So when john the baptist is praying
to Allah, or praying to God, he's saying, Uncle God, and I said, Don't be so ridiculous. And he said, Yeah, he said, but if you believed in the Holy Trinity, he said, then then john the baptist would be praying to Uncle God, because and that's when I realized, you know, you can't
dilute dilutes Allah is one person, or one being one individual. And he's everything to the whole world. And he can't just be right. This is the bit that's the ghost. This is the bit strange. And I suddenly realized, I started looking into it more. And, you know, a lot of Christians from
were tortured during the Spanish Inquisition, because the, they didn't believe in the Holy Trinity. These are Christians you're talking about, xR was never in there. It was never in their core belief. These are the the first Christians in the world really, you know, the ones that came from the land that Jesus walked through. So it was
it was that that was quite interesting as well. And,
and the Christians in that part of the world, when they pray, they pray
the same as we do, you know,
in St. Jude, and they, they pray like that,
in total submission to the one God. So it is quite, it is quite interesting. And I
that's, you know, maybe a student of comparative religions could, could come up and explain this better than I, I just have, you know, what, I was a Sunday school teacher, but I wasn't a theologian. I wasn't
really in depth, in the same way as I'm a Muslim, but I'm not a scholar or even a student of Islam.
I'm just, you know,
15 years old islamically. The ludicrous idea of john the baptist praying sort of uncle God, just really, it was just so simple, it just hit home. And as I say, you know, most of us are not blessed with the minds of great thinkers and great theologians and scholars.
There's still a lot of wisdom out there. And as I say, can be staring us right in the face. What advice do you have for other people who are out there who become victims of much of the hate propaganda? And now they're listening to you? And you asked a brilliant question, Where are you getting your information from? So what advice would you give for people who they've been fed all this stuff about Islam, you know, Islam oppresses women. Islam, you know, wants to, you know, wreak havoc on the earth Islam, this Islam that what advice do you have for people like that? Who are, you know, just sincerely, they want to know the truth, but they're just crippled by fear? Well, to all
my sisters out there, whoever you are, wherever you are,
know your Quran, because if you know the Quran, then you know, that the Holy Quran makes it crystal clear we women are equal in spirituality worth and education. And there isn't a man out there in the patriarchy and misogyny anywhere who would challenge the Word of God. So if you know your Quran, you know your rights, and you can enforce them and insist upon them and, and is having the knowledge to be able to do this. So, if you're being oppressed, it's not because of Islam. It's because the oppressor doesn't know is. So would you recommend every politician, you know, every Christian, anybody who's started, you know, they're just like you struggling with the Trinity. And it often has
me think of the story in the heart of Europe, where you had where my ancestors, the roots are in Bosnia, and you had what's called the Boga meals those dear to God. They were Unitarian Christians. And they also didn't believe in this Trinity. So there are so many people who struggle with that. This was the largest concentration of people in the heart of Europe, that when Islam came, they already believed in Jesus but as a messenger, just like you gave that example about the the Palestinian, the Christians from that area, who also didn't believe he was God, and literal synagogue. But same thing happened here. So when Islam came it fit like a glove that pure
monotheism, and they accepted it. And this is why you have the Bosnians, people there in this area in Bosnia, that primarily they're Muslims, those who have submitted to the one God, so there's a lot of people who can relate to that, what you say what you went through? Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it's very important to promote interfaith, and refer to people of other faith,
as well, because, you know, we all pray to the one God, that's what unites us. And just as I would say, to all the brothers and sisters out there, who may follow different schools of thought, who may follow certain paths, I would say, forget all of our differences and focus on what unites us. And what unites us is the five pillars of Islam. It's not rocket science. It's not, you don't have to be a great theologian to be able to understand the five pillars of Islam. Keep it simple, keep,
keep focusing on what unites us, rather than what divides us. What the lesson that we have learned by watching events in Afghanistan is when you are united, you can do amazing things. But when you were fractured and divided, you will struggle and I would point to Syria, a country which is in a desperate state still in Civil War.
So united we stand divided we fall. Thank you very much. Is that also right behind you a copy of the Quran? It is yes, yes, it is. Beautiful. Thank you so much. So advice, read the Quran, connect with the Creator of the heavens and earth and that's what you did. You were sincere. And let me ask you this last thing, were you because I often give this advice to people who are struggling, something very simple. Just ask the creator alone. Just say guide me guide me guide me at any point. Did you within your heart Did you ask Did you did you ask the creator alone without any intermediary for guidance?
I talked to him all the time even now.
And you know the
I've got a picture not in this room but with the 99 Names of Allah
I've got a hundreds and I often have dialogue and in private moments talk and and that's important to keep those channels open, obviously in prayer, but
I also, you know, have these private moments as well where I'm talking to him
and asking, asking, usually asking for wisdom. Please give me some list of all of us, all of us. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us here on the deen show. Thank you, thank you, it, peace be with you. I still am like, while he comes along. And there you have it. We're trying to figure out because there's a lot of things happening out in the world. And now they try to bring Islam into Islam does this Islam does that all the negative things. So now when people are adhering to Islam, you got the not the subjugation or oppression of women, you got the liberation, you got people getting their rights, you got people
living purpose. And that's when you experienced solace. That's when you know that now you are on a goal. And that goal is not to just build every house, acquire every position, make all the money, and now put all your chips in one basket for this life. Now, Islam helps you to go ahead and prepare, not to just totally disattached from this life, we say give us the best in this life and the best in the hereafter. So I hope that you got to benefit because that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to live a good wholesome, righteous life worshipping one and only God the Creator, the heavens and earth, the same God that Jesus worship Moses, Abraham, in the last photo messenger sent
to mankind, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all. So why would a woman like this, who's captured and then given the Quran looks into Islam? And then she ends up accepting it there must be something there so invite you to read the Quran, look into Islam and do the simplest thing that you could do. Ask within yourself, the Creator of the heavens, the earth for guidance, a guide me guide me guide me, why am I here? Where am I going when I die? If you're out there, put me on the way that's pleasing to you. And then be sincere about it be courageous enough, when the truth comes to accept it. We'll see you next time. Subscribe right now, if you haven't already, so we can go
ahead and get more people to be aware of the program so more people can get exposed to the truth and benefit from much of the stories that we share. Because we're not just trying to share stories through these stories we're trying to inspire and change lives for the better. So hit that notification bell like and we'll see you next time support us on our Patreon page. We'll see you here every week on the D show. Until then, peace be with you as salaam alaikum