Yvonne Ridley is a British-born journalist who writes for PRESS TV, Iran’s 24-hour English-language news channel. She also writes for the New York-based publication Daily Muslims, and frequently speaks at anti-Israel events sponsored by the Muslim Student Union and chapters of the Muslim Students Association.Ridley was formerly employed as a senior editor by Al Jazeera, whose English-language website she helped launch in 2003. In addition to her journalistic endeavors, she is a member of the Respect Party led by British Member of Parliament George Galloway.
Ridley first came to public attention in September 2001 when, while on an assignment for the Sunday Express, she was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and was held prisoner for eleven days. When one of her captors tried to persuade her to convert to Islam, she refused, though she promised she would read the Koran after her release. “I was horrible to my captors,” says Ridley. “I spat at them and was rude and refused to eat. It wasn’t until I was freed that I became interested in Islam.”
After gaining her freedom, Ridley did in fact study the Koran — in part, she explains, to find whatever scriptural passages the Taliban may have used as justifications for their allegedly poor treatment of women. But Ridley claims to have found that not only does the Koran contain no justification for such abuse, but that it is in fact a “Magna Carta for women.” She converted to Islam in the summer of 2003.
In a subsequent article about her conversion, Ridley derided members of U.S. intelligence agencies as “incompetent spooks” and joked that she would open a Madrassah “for recruits from my flat in Soho.”
In 2004 she ran for public office on the RESPECT Party platform but received only 12.7 percent of the popular vote. When she again ran for office in May 2005, she garnered a mere 6.4 percent of the vote. In the 2006 local government elections, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Westminster Council.
In October 2005 Ridley was hired to host The Agenda, the Islam Channel’s politics and current affairs program. The show was cancelled, however, after Ridley sparked controversy by refusing to shake hands with a Saudi prince at a post-Hajj celebration.
In November 2005 Ridley ridiculed the family members of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for having “renounced the terrorist leader after he claimed responsibility for the November 9 bomb attacks on three Amman [Jordan] hotels that killed 61 people.” “The extended family of al-Zarqawi,” Ridley observed, “… not content with condemning his actions[,] then went one step further — they reiterated their strong allegiance to Jordan’s King Abdullah II in half-page advertisements in the kingdom’s three main newspapers…. Western TV viewers were also treated to images of ‘demonstrators’ in Amman, waving Jordanian flags, condemning the assailants and telling Zarqawi to ‘burn in hell.’”
Reflecting on these events, Ridley wrote:
“While the killing of innocent people is to be condemned without question, there is something rather repugnant about some of those who rush to renounce acts of terrorism. They rather remind me of trembling slaves all scuttling forth for the approval of the boss class in the hope of receiving a few crumbs from the big man’s table … oh, if only they knew how pathetic they really are….
“That isn’t to say I wasn’t upset by the images which came blasting out of my TV. I mean we can not simply shrug our shoulders at the deaths of 61 people. But let’s have a closer look at those who perished: Five of those who died were Iraqis who were working closely with America — in other words, collaborators. One Saudi, Indonesian and three Chinese intelligence officers were also wiped out. Shame, but those who live by the sword …”
In a February 12, 2006 article titled “Our Feckless Muslim Community Leaders” (published on the website DailyMuslims.com), Ridley wrote about the Danish cartoon controversy that recently had sparked Muslim riots around the world. She condemned the “BLASPHEMOUS cartoons depicting our Beloved Prophet,” the “ISLAMAPHOBIC attacks on our great Faith,” the “THREATS of more Qur’anic abuse,” and the “DOUBLE standards when it comes to justice.”1 (Emphasis in original)
In the same piece, Ridley lauded the “millions of us [Muslims] across the world [who] have marched, protested, rallied and petitioned against the inflammatory cartoons,” adding that the protesters’ “unbridled passion for our Faith does us credit.” By contrast, she condemned those “spineless Muslim leaders” who “criticize the few [demonstrators] who over-zealously stated their outrage through some abusive placards which made silly references to 9/11 and the London bombings.”
“Now, more than ever,” Ridley added, “we have needed revolutionary leaders to stand in our corner and verbally bash the politicians, Islamaphobics, racists and secularists who are queuing up to attack the Muslim community. Now, more than ever, we need the Muslim equivalent of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez. With the exception of the heroic Palestinians like the late [Hamas leader] Sheikh [Ahmed] Yasin, and maybe Marwan Barghouti [the multiple murderer who founded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades] … the only Muslim leaders we have are those belly-dancing Arab despots who betrayed and delivered Iraq on a plate to Uncle Sam.”
In the wake of a British anti-terror raid targeting the inhabitants of a Muslim home in June 2006, Ridley told a RESPECT Party gathering that Muslims should “boycott the [UK] police and refuse to cooperate with them in any way, shape or form.” “From today until this terrorization of the Muslim community is stopped immediately,” she elaborated, “I believe all Muslims should withdraw their support. This goes from asking the community copper for directions to passing the time of day with a beat officer. We should enforce non-co-operation.”
In a June 2006 article titled “Sideline Rapists,” Ridley related that she recently had come across a cartoon of a man holding down a defenseless woman and raping her while a group of other men stood by, watching and encouraging him, save for one “angry-looking man … pointing accusingly at the victim as she is being attacked.” “The young, defenseless maiden is almost certainly [representative of] Palestine,” wrote Ridley. “but if you want you can substitute Palestine for Iraq or even Iran. Those gathering around at the table are obviously the belly-dancing Arab leaders to which I often refer, who dance and sway and entertain America while delivering whatever tasty morsels are demanded on a plate to the US. The cartoon is obscene, but it is compelling because it is simply telling the truth — an awful, horrible analogy of the situation in the Middle East today. The rapist, by the way, is dressed as a U.S. soldier.”
In July 2006 Ridley eulogized the late “fearless Chechen commander,” jihadist Shamil Basayev (aka Abdallah Shamil Abu Idris), as a “shaheed,” a martyr whose place in Paradise was assured. Basayev, who had links to al Qaeda, was the man who had masterminded such atrocities as the September 2004 Beslan school siege in which 334 civilians (including 186 children) were killed and hundreds more were injured; the 2002 siege of a Moscow theater that left 129 dead; the 1995 siege of a Russian hospital in which more than 1,000 patients were captured; a 2004 stadium bomb attack in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, that killed President Akhmad Kadyrov; and a series of June 2004 attacks on government buildings and police stations in the Republic of Ingushetia, which left almost 100 people dead.
“Precise details are sketchy at the moment although the report before me … states very tersely that [Basayev] died as a result of an ‘accidental spontaneous explosion of a cargo vehicle with explosives on July 10, 2006, in … Ingushetia.’ Three other fighters also died along with the famous Chechen rebel leader. May Allah grant all of them what they deserve.”
“Basayev led an admirable struggle to bring independence to Chechnya and resorted to targetting Russian civilians in the latter years of his struggle to try and bring the plight of the Chechen struggle to the wider world. He will probably be best remembered for masterminding the siege of the Moscow Theater and then the taking hostage of the children at a school in Beslan which sent shudders of revulsion around the world. On both occasions the overhelming numbers of civilian casualties had been killed at the hands of [R]ussian troops who bungled security raids on both operations. No one could share the pain and loss of the Beslan parents more than Chechen mothers … let’s not forget that 42,000 Chechen children have been slaughtered in the last decade by Russian bombs and shells.”
In November 2007 Ridley was the featured speaker at a UC Davis event sponsored by the campus Muslim Students Association. Telling the audience that her Islamic captors in September 2001 had treated her “with courtesy and respect,” she contrasted her experiences in captivity to those of the Iraqi detainees who had been infamously mistreated by a few American soldiers at Abu Ghraib in 2004. “Thank God I was captured by the most evil, brutal regime in the world and not the U.S. military,” she said sardonically. (Click here for a video of Ridley’s speech.)
Ridley expanded upon her hatred for the U.S. and its military when she wrote in June 2008:
“Hundreds, if not thousands, of blood-soaked, pieces of scorched earth which scar our planet are testimony to a whole raft of blunders by various U.S. presidents and their American intelligence agencies…. [T]here seems to be some sort of unwritten rule in Washington that U.S. Presidents can commit atrocities anywhere in the planet, so long as they don’t do it in their own backyard…. I wonder how long [sic] — if ever — we will hear George W. Bush apologise for the illegal war in Iraq, the one million dead, the four million refugees, the torture, murder and abuse in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other U.S. detention facilities?
“Will he ever apologise to the Afghanis for the deaths of 50,000 plus as a fruitless, pointless war continues in Afghanistan — a war, which like Iraqs [sic], can not be won by American soldiers or any occupying force come to that. Will he ever apologise for twiddling his thumbs while Israel unleashed cluster bombs over the civilian population of southern Lebanon after the Zionist army was beaten into retreat by a victorious Hizb’Allah [Hezbollah]?”
In Ridley’s estimation, the Guantanamo Bay detention center is a place where American authorities have held “hundreds of innocent men, including a number of young boys, without trial and without charge.”
Ridley supports divestment from Israel, a nation she has described as “that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East.” She says that her RESPECT Party “is a Zionist-free party,” adding that “if there was any Zionism in the RESPECT Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.”
In 2008, Ridley became a member of the newly formed organization Free Gaza. In this role, she worked closely with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. She also worked closely with Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera reporter and a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay with ties to Osama bin Laden; ISM founder Huwaida Arraf; former Palestinian Authority presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti (cousin of Marwan Barghouti, who founded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades); ICAHD founder Jeff Halper; and former Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney.
Ridley has characterized the incarcerated terrorist Abu Hamza al-Masri as “a sweet guy” who “has been demonized beyond recognition” by media that are “hateful and spiteful and vicious towards Islam.” She proudly states that al-Masri gave her a number of books on Islam.
Ridley has been married and divorced twice. Her first husband was Daoud Zaaroura, a former Palestine Liberation Organization officer.
1 The original URL of this article, which is no longer available on the Internet, was http://muslimvillage.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t19976.html. Readers may access it via the “WayBackMachine” Internet archive.