The writer Lauren Booth has announced that she’s becoming a Muslim and has been roundly lambasted for it. Personally, as an ex-Catholic, another religion that regards Women with Opinions as deeply dangerous, I’m bemused. She was brought up in the Catholic faith, a religion where a nine year old rape victim was recently excommunicated for having an abortion. (Her stepfather who had also been accused of also raping the child’s older handicapped sister was not excommunicated.) Not oppressive enough? Apparently not. How can she square ‘this shot of morphine, just absolute bliss and joy’ with a religion which has no qualms about stoning thirteen year old rape victims is beyond me. And yes, I know that there is a difference between the Koran and its interpretation. But to embrace a religion surely means you have to accept how it is practised? However, I feel a twinge of sympathy for her because around the same time she announced her new found beliefs, her father, the actor Tony Booth, blithely said in an interview that he doesn’t love her and is ‘ashamed’ of her. This ‘character’ has such a crass disregard for his children that he lauds his successful golden girl Cherie and forgets the names of his other seven daughters. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently lost my own mother but how can a parent say such a thing, loud and proud? Even if he feels it, to say it? And then to accuse her of trading on her relationship with her half-sister, Cherie Blair, when he himself has been doing exactly the same thing. You can only imagine the chaos he must have inflicted on his children. And yet, like so many utterly rotten parents he expects their support and loyalty. Which apparently Cherie gives and Lauren doesn’t.
It struck me that what Catholicism and Islam have in common is a defined set of rules about what makes a ‘good’ woman. The Catholics hold up two types of women, the virgin mother and the reformed whore (Mary Magdalene) You don’t have to wear specific clothing but a good catholic woman eschews contraception, abhors abortion and considers her primary duty to bring up her children and make her family the centre of her life. Islam requires a woman to ‘lower her gaze and guard her modesty’. It’s always about the terrible power of female sexuality isn’t it? Maybe it’s easier to think of yourself as ‘good’ if you follow a set of preordained rules, written by men, and view the world in black and white terms. But I think that it’s a mark of maturity to accept that the world is not black and white and perhaps you need a bedrock of self confidence to work out how to be good yourself without subscribing to a set of rules in order to do so.
I’ve never met LB but to have your father say such a vile thing about you, says far more about him than it does about her. Maybe it’s not so strange that she has embraced the strictness of Islam to find some peace. But I’m wondering why isn’t he being criticised for such a wretched attitude about his children?