Imran Khan: Islam and the West, Jemima and me

The cricket star turned politician, fresh from house arrest, gives a rare interview
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The Independent Online

As a dashing playboy, Imran Khan was a fixture of London's glamorous club scene, propping up the bar until the early hours and being photographed with a succession of glamorous women.

But as a statesman in his native Pakistan, his return to the headlines in recent months has been a world away from the glitz of his old life. Two spells under house arrest in the past few months and the dissolution of his marriage to Jemima have been the catalysts that have propelled him back into the public gaze.

Now Khan, 53, has spoken in detail in a rare interview about the end of his relationship and tensions between Islam and the West.

The former cricket star-turned-politician said his relationship foundered because of his career. "We had less time than a normal couple because of my work commitments," he said in the interview with The Times. "Cross-cultural marriage requires more effort."

Khan married Jemima - more than 20 years his junior and the daughter of the tycoon Sir James Goldsmith - in 1995 at Richmond register office. Despite being raised as a Catholic, she converted to Islam prior to the marriage and left the Chelsea set to live in Lahore with him as he launched his political career.

"When we realised Jemima couldn't live here any more, we divorced. At first we were concerned for our children. But it has worked out and I see them during their holidays. I consider them to be lucky to be brought up with two cultures," he said.

Jemima returned to London and they divorced nearly two years ago. Khan says he has no great desire to rush into another marriage. Jemima has since dated Hollywood star Hugh Grant.

Oxford-educated Khan, who now lives in a seven-bedroom house near the capital, Islamabad, was put under house arrest on one occasion to prevent him from demonstrating about the controversial Islamic cartoons, and earlier this month he was detained to stop him protesting about a visit by President Bush.

About the cartoons,which caused worldwide protests, he said: "Freedom of speech is one thing, but why caricature something that some people consider sacred? It's incredibly uncivilised to do things that cause hurt and humiliation to other human beings."

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