Thank you, Peter Oborne, for standing up for Muslims worldwide

Published: April 16, 2015

For me, my husband, our family, and so many others, Oborne became a source of inspiration. PHOTO: AFP

I first spoke to renowned author and journalist Peter Oborne when I was working on a documentary about the misconceptions of Islam in the West during the summer of 2008.

I had researched his profile and felt that he was the perfect candidate to speak to about the dehumanisation of Muslims in western media. It was a privilege speaking to him – he was very thorough and well versed in the subject.

After the completion of my work, we stayed in touch and soon after he decided to visit Lahore. I never thought that our interview would result in such a strong bond that we would become family friends over the years. I came to admire his work and was often surprised at his sensitivity on matters that generally do not cause a stir in the British media.

On the third anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in Britain, Oborne made a documentary titled Dispatches for Channel 5, with a special focus on the ‘War on Terror, It shouldn’t happen to a Muslim.’

It was a narrative on how the lives of some Muslims residing in the UK had been devastated after the tragedy that rocked Britain and the world. From cases of vandalism to the rise of Islamophobia in the media, Oborne outlined the growing antagonism towards Muslims.

Oborne, along with James Jones, also wrote a pamphlet titled Muslims Under Siege: Alienating Vulnerable Communities and discussed the fabricated stories about Islam and how Islam had become the recipient of scathing reports.

According to the pamphlet,

“The history of post-war Britain is in very large part the story of enlightenment: the steady eradication of irrational fears and resentments. Prejudice against foreigners, gays and blacks has steadily been softened or in some happy cases eliminated. But one resentment remains, and today it is stronger than ever. Prejudice against Islam – Islamophobia – is Britain’s last remaining socially respectable form of bigotry.”

Oborne fell in love with Pakistan on his first trip and was deeply touched by our culture and way of life. The coming years saw frequent sojourns for various assignments as our friend began connecting more with the people of Pakistan. It was an absolute privilege hosting him in Lahore, as we always considered him family.

Having witnessed various misconceptions about Pakistan in the West, he penned a brilliant piece for the Daily Telegraph titled Are we wrong about Pakistan? While the article in its entirety is a must read, I will quote briefly from it:

“Yet the reality is far more complex. Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.”

The article was a breath of fresh air at a time when we were deeply entrenched in stories of terrorism, massive power-cuts, totally inept governance and widespread corruption. It seemed that Oborne believed in the potential of Pakistan the way very few of us could even imagine. He was always very enthusiastic about the raw talent he witnessed and believed Pakistani people to be very hospitable, warm and highly resilient.

He also reported natural disasters, one of which was the massive flooding in Muzaffargarh and I remember that he shared stories of not just the sheer depredation, but also of human courage and valour.

He recounted several stories of brave Pakistanis who had little left, yet had the fortitude to help others in need. In 2013, his son volunteered to teach at the Langland’s School in Chitral, an act obviously encouraged by his father. Having discussed it with us, I had my doubts about the idea, being genuinely concerned about the security situation in the area.

However, it was indeed a very brave gesture on his part to go through with it. His son, William, a wonderful young man, gelled very well with our family while staying with us during his winter vacations. It seemed to me that Oborne’s generosity towards Pakistan knew no bounds.

For me, my husband, our family, and so many others, Oborne became a source of inspiration. He saw kindness and hope where most were disappointed and disoriented with our state of affairs.

Being an avid cricket fan and an award winning sports author, based on his earlier book on Basil D’Oliveira, Cricket and Conspiracy; the untold story, Oborne decided to write a book on the history of cricket in Pakistan. After around four years of tireless efforts and brilliant research work on every aspect of cricket in Pakistan, his book titled Wounded Tiger was published in July 2014.

It is a must-read for every cricket fan and an enthralling account on the history of the game, starting from the pre-partition days. His political acumen, insight of the game, and flawless research make it a highly absorbing account of our cricketing history. Having been a small part of such an historic venture, we felt truly humbled at the magnanimous gesture on Peter’s part to dedicate his book to my husband and me.

Peter recently resigned from his position as the chief political commentator at the Daily Telegraph. His research revealed that the coverage of the international bank, HSBC, was biased and went against every norm of journalism. The paper refused to print certain stories for fear of losing out on advertisements.

Peter had discovered that HSBC was closing down accounts of Muslim charities in the UK, giving no apparent reason for their decision. It was a big blow to all the charities as Peter pointed in his article. Telegraph never published it and that became one of the reasons for Peter’s resignation.

It is not often that you come across such incorruptible and principled journalists, and I for one truly revere and admire everything Peter has done for Pakistan and journalism as a whole.

Ramma Cheema

Ramma Cheema

The author is a communications and media professional having worked in the entertainment industry. An avid reader who loves to travel and has a keen interest in social issues and politics. She tweets as @rammacheema

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • mehwish toor

    Peter..one of the few refined journalists I admire and look upto as an inspiration. A very well written trying tribute for the love of journalism. Keep it up !Recommend

  • Saad

    A good tribute to a truly great manRecommend

  • mehwish toor

    Peter..one of the few refined journalists I truly look upto as an inspiration. A Very well written tribute. Keep it up !Recommend

  • Tahir Shafi Khan

    I had the privilege of meeting Peter a few months ago when he came to Pakistan as part of a cricket “team”. This group was composed of Brits aged between 27 and 70 years from all parts of the British Isles. The majority had never been to Pakistan and their families pleas to not travel there were trumped by Peter’s assurance that they would experience a Pakistan at odds with the country’s portrayal in the western media. I met them towards the end of their fortnight in Pakistan and it felt good to know that this band of intrepid cricketers were going back genuinely charmed by Pakistan-something that we used to take as read growing up in this wonderful country prior to the 1980s.

    Intrigued by Peter, I googled him and now do so regularly. Rarely I have come across someone who has the courage of his convictions and so eloquently calls a spade a spade! It helps also that he has the vision and empathy to see the potential in the Pakistan of the 21st century!Recommend

  • Paki

    Seems a genuine unbiased human being. Saw things with an open mind. Brilliant article by Ramma. He should the Independent if he has left the Telegraph or maybe Al Jazeera.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….and its the likes of people like Peter Oborne that make this world a little better.
    Really enjoyed reading this.Recommend

  • salman zahid

    An apt tribute to what a great journalist,,,,bravo Peter ObourneRecommend

  • Haider

    He seems like a wonderful human being and journalist.Recommend

  • salman zahid

    I have read hi articles before…..Toooo good..!!Recommend

  • Ania

    I had an opportunity to work with his son mr. William at the Langlands school and college chitral. It’s really good to see the foreign volunteers working here. Recommend