Following are excerpts from an interview with Tony Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth, which aired on Press TV on October 26, 2010:
Reporter: Tony Blair's sister in-law Lauren Booth has been a prominent friend of Muslims in Britain and abroad for many years. The journalist and commentator has campaigned against Islamophobia in the UK. She's a vociferous critic of the Iraq war, and has highlighted the suffering of the Palestinians. But she has always resisted taking the ultimate step and converting to Islam – that is, until now.
If I could ask you, first of all, a simple question: How did you come to this stage? How did you come to convert?
Lauren Booth: I wasn't looking to convert to Islam, although I've been sympathetic to the people I've met in the Umma for the last five years. This is a conversion that has taken me by surprise. I went to a mosque in Qom, in Iran, and had this intense spiritual awakening. That's the only way I can describe it. When I left the mosque – the feeling hasn't left me. Not entirely. And then I knew that I was Muslim anyway, so it was an easy step to convert.
Reporter: Booth decided to become a Muslim in the most public of settings – in front of around 25,000 people during an Islamic conference in London. Her conversion immediately sparked media reaction in the UK, much of it negative. Right-wing commentators accuse her of being mad, or trying to make a statement in support of political Islam.
Your conversion has sparked quite a lot of media interest, some of it reasonable, some of it quite negative. What have you made of that?
Lauren Booth: You know, I think I'm going to realize how much... what hatred really is now, because as soon as I read some of the comments that were made... There are two assumptions: One is that all Muslim women are trying to be saved from this evil life that has been given them through Islam and through their evil Islamic husbands, and the second is that wearing a veil is something that women should never have to do. Well, choosing to cover my hair just for modesty reasons, and understanding that women are happy in Islam – that's seen as a betrayal, so there is a lot of anger coming towards me.
Reporter: It's thought that thousands of people convert to Islam in the UK every year – many of them women. Islamic leaders say that many converts come to the religion because their interest has been aroused by negative coverage of Islam. As for Tony Blair and his wife – Booth's sister, Cherie – they are staunch Roman Catholics. The former Prime Minister has been accused of stoking a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. So what will he and his wife think of Lauren Booth's conversion?
Lauren Booth: I'm sure they will say mashallah and be delighted, because they are, after all, People of the Book.