Muslim convert vilified by Mail and Express slams ‘tittle-tattle’
A MUSLIM convert vilified by the right-wing press has hit out against the unjustified invasion of her personal life and the toothlessness of press regulation.
Journalist Lauren Booth — Cherie Blair’s half-sister — was accused by the Daily Mail this week of being a “cheerleader for Islamic zealots.”
Yesterday she told the Star she believed the attack was in retaliation to her opposition to Prevent, the government’s much-criticised anti-radicalisation strategy, widely mistrusted among Muslim communities.
She explained that she maintains the same political views she held before she became Muslim and started wearing a headscarf.
She said: “Now I fear the knock on the door. Is this a free society? Seven years ago when I spoke about Palestine, there was no problem. But now I have to be more cautious because of Prevent.”
In an article Ms Booth said was loaded with racist undertones, the Mail described her as a “blonde paled-skinned woman” who two years ago “married a local [Stockport] Asian man.”
She said: “There was no news substance to it. It was all personal tittle-tattle, lies and unpleasantness. There was not a legitimate news-hook to it.
“And to say I dress my 13- and 15-year-old daughters? Show me any parent who can tell their teenagers what to wear. They have their own free will.”
Ms Booth was criticised for being a patron of Cage, a charity for those imprisoned without charge or trial, and Hhugs (Helping Households Under Great Stress), which supports hard-up dependents of terror suspects.
In response to the “Islamic zealots” slur, Hhugs has issued a statement saying it “does not in any way support or condone any form of terrorism.” The charity also pointed out that it had assisted the family of former Guantanamo Bay detainee of 14 years Shaker Aamer — the Mail had campaigned for his release too.
The Daily Express, owned by porn baron and “Britain’s greediest billionaire” Richard Desmond, followed at the Mail’s heels and copied the story almost word for word.
Ms Booth said her family, including elderly relatives, had been subjected to harassment and journalists’ anonymous phone calls.
She is seeking legal advice and will give a report to the Independent Press Standards Office (Ipso). But she believes the watchdog has no bite.
“I don’t have any confidence in Ipso and I don’t think Muslims that have been unfairly targeted by the press do.
“But it’s an action that we must take to show how seriously we take the libellous claims and exaggerations,” she said.