London // The sister-in-law of Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who is now the UN special envoy in the Middle East, has converted to Islam.
Lauren Booth, the half-sister of Mr Blair's wife Cherie, said she had converted from Christianity after a "holy experience" six weeks ago following a visit to the shrine of Fatima al Masumeh in Qom, Iran.
Ms Booth, 43, a journalist who works for Press TV, the Iranian English-language broadcaster, announced her conversion at the Global Peace and Unity Event in London on Saturday. To cheers, she told the meeting: "What I wanted to share with you today is that I am Lauren Booth and I am a Muslim."
She told The Mailon Sunday newspaper that she now wears a hijab whenever she leaves her home and had not ruled out adopting the burqa. She said she prays five times a day, visits her local mosque "when I can", and has given up pork and alcohol.
"I haven't had a drink in 45 days, the longest period in 25 years," she said. "The strange thing is that since I decided to convert I haven't wanted to touch alcohol, and I was someone who craved a glass of wine or two at the end of a day."
Ms Booth said that she had been sympathetic to Islam ever since working in Palestine.
She was a vociferous opponent of the Iraq War and has publicly accused Mr Blair of being pro-Israel. Two years ago, she joined a group of activists on a ship from Cyprus that sailed to Gaza to highlight the Israeli blockade of the territory. Of her conversion to Islam, Ms Booth said that, after visiting the Qom shrine, "I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine - just absolute bliss and joy".
During the trip, she wrote an open letter to Mr Blair, bitterly condemning his support of American policies in the Middle East and saying: "Your world view is that Muslims are mad, bad, dangerous to know. A contagion to be contained."
Mr Blair, who himself converted from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic faith after leaving office, has not commented on his sister-in-law's conversion.
On Muslim forums on the internet yesterday, Ms Booth's decision was generally welcomed. "Now a war criminal has an innocent sister-in-law! God bless her!" read one. However, another contributor added: "Lauren Booth craves attention, that's all."