George Galloway Calls in lawyer over Jemima Khanâ€™s claim that he converted to Islam in a secret ceremony more than a decade ago
â€¢ George Galloway denies taking part in the ceremony – but doesnâ€™t deny being a Muslim
â€¢ He says article written by Jemima Khan is littered with â€˜schoolgirl howlersâ€™
â€¢ Politician has always been referred to as Catholic
â€¢ Interview carried out as Mr Galloway ate a halal meal
By Rob Cooper and Leon Watson
George Galloway has called in his lawyers over Jemima Khanâ€™s claim that he converted to Islam in a â€˜phantomâ€™ ceremony more than a decade ago.
The socialite had said the maverick MP took part in a â€˜shahadahâ€™ conversion, attended by members of the Muslim Association of Great Britain.
Mrs Khan, who herself became a Muslim ahead of her failed marriage to cricketer Imran Khan, claimed she knows someone who attended the event in north-west London in an article in the New Statesman magazine.
But Mr Galloway, who was elected to Parliament as MP for Bradford West in a by-election last month, angrily denied that any ceremony had taken place.
After a while, he issued a statement saying: â€˜The further allegations from the New Statesman in response to my rebuttal moves the issue into the area of defamation.
â€˜Jemima Khan asked me on tape about this phantom ceremony in Kilburn and I told her it was a lie and whoever told her it was a liar.
â€˜No trace of this exchange appears in the New Statesman piece, which is predicated upon it. Now that they are denying my denial it places the matter in the hands of my solicitor.â€™
The four times married 57-year-old had refused to deny claims that he is a Muslim.
In the days before his shock landslide by-election victory last month, a letter – which Mr Galloway denies being behind – went out to voters highlighting his record of support for Palestine, his work for â€˜the freedom of Kashmirâ€™ and his abstention from alcohol.
It added: â€˜God knows who is a Muslim. And He knows who is not. Instinctively so do you.â€™
George Galloway took to Twitter to angrily deny Mrs Khanâ€™s claim that he converted to Islam
Jemima Khan hit back asking â€˜whatâ€™s wrong with being a Muslim?â€™
Ms Khan, who interviewed the MP in his new constituency, which has a large Muslim community, started the article: â€˜George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, is a Muslim.
â€˜He converted more than ten years ago in a ceremony at a hotel in Kilburn, north-west London, attended by members of the Muslim Association of Great Britain.
â€˜Those close to him know this. The rest of the world, including his Muslim constituents, does not.â€™
Ms Khan tells Mr Galloway she knows someone â€˜who attended your shahadahâ€™ and says, â€˜so you converted?â€™
According to the article he replied: â€˜I canâ€™t answer that. God knows who is a Muslim.â€™
The interview was carried out as Ms Khan and Mr Galloway ate a halal meal.
When being sworn in as an MP Mr Galloway chose to affirm, rather than make the pledge on a religious text.
He told Ms Khan: â€˜People ask me this, why did I affirm in Parliament when I swore in?
â€˜The answer is: I had to take an oath of allegiance in which I donâ€™t believe, to the Queen and all her heirs and successors, and I have no allegiance to any of them, and I could not possibly swear such a thing on a holy book.
â€˜So nothing else should be read into the affirmation.â€™
Mr Galloway claimed the article was littered with â€˜deliberate falsehoodsâ€™ and â€˜schoolgirl howlersâ€™.
He Tweeted: â€˜No such ceremony ever happened, in Kilburn or anywhere else.â€™
In a statement he added: â€˜The opening paragraph of Jemima Khanâ€™s piece in the New Statesman, referring to an alleged conversion ceremony, is totally untrue.
â€˜Moreover I told her it was fallacious when she put it to me. I have never attended any such ceremony in Kilburn, Karachi or Kathmandu.
â€˜It is simply and categorically untrue.â€™
The New Statesman issued a robust statement in response to Mr Gallowayâ€™s denial.
A spokeswoman said: â€˜It is notable that Galloway does not deny being a Muslim convert – and he did not deny it when it was put to him at the time of the interview, which is on tape.
â€˜Contrary to his press release, nor did he deny that the ceremony took place when it was put to him during the interview. This is also on tape.
â€˜Furthermore, he failed to clarify how, by his own admission, he had a â€˜nikahâ€™ (a Muslim marriage ceremony), despite the fact that a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman under Islamic law.â€™