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Yvonne Ridley – British Journalist and Author

Yvonne Ridley is a British journalist who was a chair of the National Council of the now-defunct Respect Party.

She was captured by the Taliban in 2001. She later converted to Islam

Her most recent book – The Rise of the Prophet Muhammad: Don’t Shoot The Messenger – was published last month.

Rohail Amjad: Do you believe the US has always had different policies towards Israel , west and the Muslim world?

Yvonne Ridley: America’s foreign policy is riddled with double standards. Primarily the US is motivated purely by what serves the best interests of the US politically, economically and somewhere near the bottom of the list is human rights. The one basic standard is not geographical, it is simply this: What serves the US best?

This policy is more transparent under US President Donald Trump whose line MAGA – Make America Great Again leaves nothing to doubt.

As such it currently suits the US purposes to put Israel’s interests above most others which is partly due to the huge influence of the pro-Israel political lobby in operation on Capitol Hill. Not quite as powerful as the political gun lobbies, nevertheless AIPAC and a number of other pro-Tel Aviv lobbies hold great sway over political decisions.

In addition Christian Zionists and evangelicals – accounting for around 50 million in the US – were extremely vocal and supportive of the decision to recognise Jerusalem in this way. it was a huge victory for those who support the political ideology of Zionism.

While America’s announcement to move the US embassy to Jerusalem brought international criticism the decision would not be reversed despite pressure from so-called close allies of Washington.

Rohail Amjad: Many analysts plea that till time there is profit in wars, the world will not know peace. Is it true that it’s all about World Arms and Ammunition trade?

Yvonne Ridley: There are always those who will profit from war; arms manufacturers, military dictatorships and other corporate entities. In many ways this was never more so exposed than during the George W Bush presidency when so many close to that administration profited greatly from the War on Terror in terms of security and the arms trade.

Rohail Amjad: How much impact you think will the leadership of Imran Khan have on the world when its come to Pakistan’s foreign policy ?

Yvonne Ridley : Imran Khan will, I believe, prove to be an exceptional leader. He’s educated, well-travelled and manages to maintain a foot in either camp (West and East) while putting the interests of Pakistan first. He understands what makes the West tick without being subservient or servile towards state leaders (unlike previous aspiring leaders and former PMs and Presidents). He has been waiting in the wings for such a long time but has not used this period idly which is why I believe he could go on to become a great leader.

I also think he will take Pakistan’s foreign policy interests more in the direction of liaisons with other rising superpowers including China. He has always made it quite clear throughout his rise through the political ranks his disdain for the corrupting influences of American foreign policy.

Rohail Amjad: Muslims all round the globe are going through hardships of war and the United Nations hase been silent on it. Hasn’t UN made its identity to always be on the side of evil?

Yvonne Ridley : The United Nations is not ‘on the side of evil’. It was launched in 1945 with the best of intentions after the awful events of World War Two to ensure that such conflicts could never happen again as the more powerful and influential countries came to the aid and support of less able ones. Made up of 193 Member States, the UN’s mission and work is guided by the founding Charter.

The problem with the UN is that it has become a rather toothless organisation and some of the major influences on the Security Council promote self interest rather than the global aspirations and human rights which are supposed to be the UN’s driving force.

Personally speaking, I think the UN needs to be dismantled and reformed in a more productive, less corrupting force for good.

Rohail Amjad: Pakistani intelligence agencies explained the PM today that Israel and India had planned to attack 8 places in Pakistan, Will the Western Peace Makers take notice of this? 

Yvonne Ridley : I would treat with caution any information which is “intelligence-led” regardless of whether the sources are from the East or West. Dark Forces, as I call these organisations, appear to be more self-serving than putting the interests of country first.

An example of faulty intelligence led to the invasion and war in Iraq to Britain and America’s eternal shame. Equally shameful misinformation can be evidenced around the world to push countries to conflict and war and not the interests of a country’s citizens.

Rohail Amjad: What is the solution for the ongoing Indo Pak tension ? Do you think this will escalate to war?

Yvonne Ridley :  I don’t believe there will be a war and while the international community is urging restraint, I think the actions so far played by Imran Khan have been inspirational. Here we have a leader who would rather talk peace than indulge in macho, war-mongering rhetoric. At the moment he has occupied the high moral ground and won the admiration of many observers.

Rohail Amjad: What in your opinion is the difference between ISIL, Taliban  and Al Qaeda’s ideology ?

Yvonne Ridley : The ideologies are all quite different and should not be likened to each other. ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is a death cult and its emergence on the scene had little to do with Islam. It was never going to succeed and its expansion and occupying of territory was always going to be limited in Syria and Iraq.

The Afghan Taliban’s ambitions lie within the boundaries of Afghanistan and poses no threat to any countries beyond those borders. The religious ideology was tough and uncompromising under the leadership of Mullah Omar and if the Taliban had been supported by the West instead of attacked I feel Afghanistan might be a very different place today. I’m sure it would have moved to a more compromising and fair society had it been embraced by the international community instead of bombed.

Al Qaida was a more international movement with political ambitions and goals as outlined by Osama bin Laden when he launched his “global jihad” back in the 90s. I don’t think OBL or his Number Two Ayman al Zawahiri expected to survive more than a year beyond 9/11 and you can see this by the rather unconstructed nature of Al Qaida which is more of a franchise organisation now. It has no concrete mission, no HQ and operates in a very loose way with a variety of rogue organisations embracing the name but not the ideology. Either way, it can never succeed or evolve beyond being a terrorist organisation because it has no concrete territorial ambitions.

Rohail Amjad: What was your opinion about Taliban before and after being abducted by them?

Yvonne Ridley : My view of the Afghan Taliban was one dimensional before I was captured. Once in their custody I rapidly realised that this was a determined group which was severely underestimated by the West. When I was freed I spoke at a conference in January 2002 and said the war would never end in Afghanistan until the Taliban had regained power or every one of them had died trying to take back their country. I was dismissed as someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and the Westminster elite sneered at me. They’re not laughing now – in fact they’re sitting down talking to the Taliban alongside the Americans and other power brokers.

Rohail Amjad : How has Islam changed you?

Yvonne Ridley : I don’t think I’ve changed hugely although I am much more disciplined in my worship of God. I’ve always had a core belief in God and was a practising Christian before I embraced Islam. Obviously the alcohol, cigarettes and clubbing went but essentially I have the same political views, I’m still a feminist and still promote women’s rights while observing and worshipping God.

I get irritated by some peoples’ well-meaning attempts to put me on some sort of pedestal. I’m human, I’m flawed and like most Muslims I struggle daily to get things right. Some days I’m pleased by my actions and other days I think I could have behaved better or with more wisdom.

Islam has made me more tolerant although I still treat misogyny and injustice with disdain.

Rohail Amjad: thank you so much for giving me time. Allah Hafiz

About Interview Scripted by Rohail Amjad

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