Tag Archives: Yvonne Ridley

Careful Where You Stand – for those who wish to attack another

Fazel Muhamad, 48, holding pictures of family members who were killed in the attack. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad; The Guardian

Fazel Muhamad, 48, holding pictures of family members who were killed in the attack. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad; The Guardian

In the past two days I have had three “curious” replies to a post in matangmanok regarding Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist who had converted to Islam.  I have approved one of the replies to show that if there is genuine discussion needed on a subject I am willing to open the doors.  But the two other replies to the same post that are now pending my approval have forced me to wonder if there is a new anti-Muslim wave I am unaware of.

I would like to invite the two people who have swamped me with these strange correspondences to please understand, I prefer to keep this space open for all who wish to contribute their thoughts without attacking another person’s choice of faith.

Mr Fulgente Antonio, I permitted your initial reply to the article concerning reports by Yvonne Ridley.  Your follow-up is far too long and too similar to the other person who posted a reply on the same day, forcing me to wonder if you know each other in more ways than one.

Mr Jeffrey Lang, this is how your reply started:

It is really a pity that an educated British lady converts to Islam and fails to get to know the realty of Jesus, the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. I had earlier went through the same experience of being led astray by the PROPHET OF DOOM, Mohammad, but later I realized that was stepping into hell. I would like to list  a comparison between the Lord of Light, JESUS, and the Prophet of Doom, Mohammad, so that the message would be made clear to Yvonne Ridley and all misled Muslims. I would like also to note that I have returned safely to the Lord Jesus and abandoned the bleak image of Mohammad.
Jeffrey Lang (project@genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu).

The rest of it, I am sorry to say, will take up too much space on my blog.  I will gladly forward the rest of the lengthy text to anyone who kindly requests it.

I grew up in a now predominantly Catholic country.  Before the Spanish colonizers arrived it had been largely Muslim, but there were many other belief systems among the myriad tribes.  The Europeans stayed for over 300 years, and in that time countless lives were lost in the effort to convert the population to the lovely religion of Christianity.  Numerous rebellions took place, villagers took to the hills to avoid being forced to accept a foreign belief system.

If you look at the history of religions – not just Christianity – that tried to impose their belief systems on others, you might just find that weapons of destruction accompanied such flag-waving campaigns.  In the end the “triumphant” religion seems to have taken over the pre-existing one, but in fact it often gets changed as well in the process.

The “subsumed” religion, just like any organism, seeks ways of surviving in the most amazing ways.  I dare say that animism and ancestral worship continue to bleed through the bandages of the Christian faith – one has to know where to look.  Though that is a matter for another time.

For now these are the things I would like to mention.  It is easy to wave a flag and brand someone.  With that, the flag-waver and brander calls attention to him/herself.  What cause are you fighting for?  What box do you stand on?  Or is that a coffin?  Have you measured it?

Choosing a faith – or for that matter, rejecting one or all – is a very personal matter.  And so there is an arrogance that carries with it a terrible blindness when one decries a particular religion, condemning every single person who might be its follower.

A few steps away from that dangerous activity is the closing of doors to a common humanity.

Yvonne Ridley Reports

Yvonne Ridley reports from Viva Palestina
9th March 2009


The last 24 hours have probably been the blackest since the Viva Palestina convoy set off from London.

Yesterday the convoy members became the target of an orchestrated wave of violence first started by Egyptian police and then culminating in vicious attacks by unknown thugs.

The end result was a number of peace activists whose only aim is to take humanitarian aid into war torn Gaza were treated in hospital for head injuries.

Mercifully the string of casualties was not too serious but the experience denied us the chance of fulfilling our mission to deliver aid to Gaza yesterday.

And dramatic images of the rioting and attacks could not be relayed to Press TV viewers because someone sabotaged the satellite van by deliberately cutting through a vital cable which would have beamed the shameful attacks across the world.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and I would like to take this opportunity of personally thanking the Egyptian authorities and those dark forces who tried to derail Viva Palestina.

The event has only served to make us stronger, unite and bond us together more and created a wave of international media interest in Viva Palestina.

I think it would be fair to say that when you bring a diverse group of 300 plus people together on a gruelling mission to cover 5,000 miles driving across North Africa the result can result in a less than harmonious state of affairs.

To be frank, there was friction and infighting and some of us generally got on each other’s nerves as you would when you are confined to close quarters with challenging living, sleeping and eating conditions.

However, the deliberate bloody-mindedness of the Egyptian authorities did something we had failed to do for ourselves … it caused us to unite, bond and emerge stronger than ever from underneath the rows of police batons, bricks, bottles and stones.
The trouble began when the police – who were only obeying their orders – tried to break up the convoy into small groups of medical and non medical aid. We were told the first would go through the Rafah crossing while the latter would go through an Israeli checkpoint.

This was never going to be accepted by anyone on board the convoy. Our aim from the outset was simple: Rafah or bust.

Giving aid to the people of Gaza has nothing to do with the Israelis and I do wish they would stop trying to make themselves centre stage in an affair that does not involve Tel Aviv.

As we dug in our heels about the convoy being physically divided, the authorities decided there was only one solution – batter us into submission, after all that is what police states do.

And so, when the police tried to get physical, the convoy members followed their natural instincts and used passive resistance to defend themselves.

Egyptian police are obviously not used to confronting stroppy westerners in such large numbers and so they retreated while a second wave was sent in. Hundreds of riot squad officers, wearing visors, carrying shields and batons tumbled in to one of the two car parks in a large town centre compound in the port of al Arish and set about the unarmed peace activists.

They too were heroically repelled and what followed was an uneasy stand off as some convoy members received medical attention.

The net result was scores of vehicles had been able to escape the compound in which they were being held behind metal police barriers.

It was a minor victory and what followed was a very British response – the lads decided to have a game of football. I did try to persuade the Egyptian police to join in stressing they would have much more fun kicking a ball instead of kicking my comrades, but they seemed reluctant to let go of their batons.

As the night drew in the convoy leader George Galloway who was 40 kilometres down the road, was made aware of the battle of al Arish and so he refused to cross the Rafah Border in to Gaza and returned to the convoy.

It was a hard call to make as the international media had gathered at Rafah for a party that never happened. As usual the Israelis also played to stereotype by shelling and bombing parts of Gaza.

By the time Britain’s best known parliamentarian reached the compound night had fallen and bright stadium-style lights illuminated the two car parks.

Suddenly the area was plunged into darkness by a powercut which coincided with a brick, bottle and stone attacks on the convoy members by youths in their late teens and 20s. Seconds before the lights went out some convoy members saw a couple of unidentified men scrawling anti-Hamas slogans on lorries.

The lights remained out for some minutes, during which time the vicious attack was unleashed – the whole proceedings failed to warrant one single Egyptian police officer to swing his baton into action.

Those who had wielded their sticks with such a passion before, stood impassively by and watched the onslaught.

The power kicked back in again and the bright lights illuminated the scene to reveal several convoy members lying dazed and confused, blood dripping from gaping head wounds.

While they were ferried to hospital for treatment, there was a second powercut and a repeat of the violence.

Once again the police stood by and watched the thugs launch their attacks on unarmed and defenceless members of Viva Palestina.

Galloway, incandescent with rage held an urgent meeting with the governor of the region and secured assurances this would not happen again. He also secured a pledge that the convoy would be allowed to make its way to the Rafah crossing for 6am on Monday.

We’re now only a few hours away from that deadline and it remains to be seen if the governor will keep his word.

But regardless of what he decides I want to thank him for pulling every single member of Viva Palestina into one, united front.

Thanks to him and the cack-handed police operation, Viva Palestina has emerged refocussed and stronger than ever with one, determined goal: Rafah or bust.

And it will happen, inspite of the best efforts of Tel Aviv meddling and Egyptian authorities’ bullying.

The people united can never be defeated.

Gaza, next stop.

* British journalist Yvonne Ridley and award-winning film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani are on the Viva Palestina convoy making a documentary about the journey from London to Gaza. her website is http://www.yvonneridley.org and you can follow her updates by Twitter or Facebook