Jesus and George Galloway get in a Ford… An interview for Muslim Matters

Parliamentarian and YouTube sensation George Galloway made time during his jam-packed tour schedule, promoting the Viva Palestina US convey, to answer Muslim Matters readers’ questions and to offer advice for activists in the US and the UK.

A note to our readers:

This interview was conducted in transit from one speaking event to another and was done from the backseat (Iesa Galloway) to the front seat (George Galloway) of a Ford Explorer. Due to this setup there are minor sound quality issues and two audio interruptions (One in the introduction and the other in question number seven). Our solution is to write the questions for our readers then allow you to hear his responses.

Q1) Please describe your first exposure to the issue of Palestine and what differentiated the person who introduced the issue to you and made his effort so effective?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer1.mp3]

Q2) How do you recommend that activists who work on the Palestinian Issue do so when speaking to people who have very little exposure to the issue or exposure only to one side?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer2.mp3]

Q3) Can you speak to the BNP (British National Party) and what Muslims in the UK should do to marginalize or counteract their influence? Is this a wise use of time and energy?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer3.mp3]

Q4) The majority of our readers are Muslim minorities in the west, are there any activities that you feel Muslims should be doing that we are not pursuing aggressively?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer4.mp3]

Q5) Many people asked if you felt that public demonstrations, rallies and marches are an effective use of time? Are there more effective ways to win friends and influence people?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer5.mp3]

Q6) Many “Religious” Muslims debate how effective or if it is even allowable to vote in the non-Muslim democratic system, can you speak to civic participation and its importance in your view?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer6.mp3]

Q7) Can you share your analysis on Obama’s address in Cairo and its significance to Palestine and to US Muslim relations?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer7.mp3]

NOTE: During this question we were interrupted and some audio was lost. In the missing audio, George Galloway mentioned Obama recognized that some Palestinians support Hamas, and in George Galloway’s view that Obama was “issuing Hamas a ticket,” the lost audio states – I am paraphrasing here – that if Hamas has support from some Palestinians in the electorate that they have to be dealt with as a representative of the people who elected them. He then mentioned that Obama compared the Palestinian people’s suffering to that of the black people in South Africa under apartheid.

Q8) As a final comment would you like to discuss Viva Palestina and its goals?

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/galloway/answer8.mp3]

A few points, thoughts and observations:

I did not ask George Galloway any questions about his religious beliefs. I did preface the first question as follows, “To help activists learn from other’s successes please share with us how, you a non-Muslim, non-Palestinian, non-Arab, with no vested interest in Palestine have come to be such a passionate activist for Palestine?” To which he responded with audio file above, mentioning a young Palestinian who lobbied him in a local, district political office in the UK. It is apparent that George Galloway sees himself as wholeheartedly on the side of Muslims, in the several instances when asked for advice to the Muslim community’s activists he uses the word, “we.”

While we (the interviewer and the interviewee) share the same last name there is no relation between us.

About George Galloway, I found him very down to earth, in the sense that he spoke to people as his equals. He was goal oriented and business minded, yet he was still very personable. I saw him holding and kissing babies, taking photos with all who asked – he is a politician after all.

To secure the interview, I met him twice at two different events in Houston, each nearly a month apart. The first event, when I was introduced to George Galloway he said “Wal’llah you’re a Galloway?” My kneejerk thought was he has been hanging out with too many Arabs.

He was also very sharp witted. He mentioned portions of this interview and my off-the-record questions and debating during his speaking engagements. For example, before the interview I asked him if he was being overly optimistic about the significance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo. During his next public speaking event he said to the audience, while looking squarely at me, “Earlier, I was accused of being over optimistic,” and he went on to offer similar points about the significance of Obama’s Cairo address that are recorded above.

He truly knows how to work an audience. Each of George Galloway’s speaking engagements had a vastly different attendance. With each group he referenced hot topics that won him points with their particular demographic.

At one point he described himself as a “political idealist” as opposed to “other” politicians whose motivations were based on “winning elections.”

Lastly, I was struck by the audiences’ response to George Galloway. He had a sort of rock-star/sage status. This held true with the youth and the elders alike.