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Friday, September 24, 2010

In an interview with Gayle King, Queen Rania talks about education and tolerance

Interviewer
I have watched the recent wave of Islamaphobia that‘s hit our country. I have to say it makes me so sad. And then I thought there would be a really great person to talk to about that. It’s today’s guest, she is Her Royal Highness Queen Rania of Jordan. She’s a queen, she has a crown and everything! She’s a mother, she is a Muslim, she is passionate about children and education, spends every single day working to make the world a little better for all of us in it and I am thrilled and really honoured to join, to welcome Queen Rania to join us in this important conversation. Hello Your Royal Highness.

Queen
Hi Gayle. It’s wonderful to be here.

Interviewer
No, it’s so great to see you. I was saying, uh, the other day I was telling my favourite listeners that there was a big, you know, it was called the Important Dinner for Women.

Queen
Mhm.

Interviewer
And, um, I was privileged enough to be invited but, the thing that struck me most when I walked in and they were doing the seating, and I was seated next to Queen Rania, I have spent the last two days saying (whisper) “who did the seating? How did that happen?”. I was thrilled to be sitting next to you! Were you as excited to be sitting next to me?!

Queen
Look, it wasn’t coincidence. I had a say. I had a say in who was sitting next to me.

Interviewer
Did you really?

Queen
Absolutely.

Interviewer
Are you just saying that?

Queen
No, I’m not.

Interviewer
I am not kidding. I have asked so many people and so many people were saying “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know”.

Queen
It was, that was the highlight of my evening.

Interviewer
Oh my gosh!

Queen
Was sitting chatting with you.

Interviewer
I am so, oh, I can’t even, I’m really thrown by that. I’m not kidding.

Queen
I think your listeners know and I hope those who haven’t met you know what a special person you are.

Interviewer
No, thank you so much, so much, I really appreciate that. Interview over!

Queen
Laughing………

Interviewer
No, but you were here, there was the Important Dinner for Women but you were here for the United Millennium Development Goals and you were, you, you presented a petition of 18 million, 18 million signatures, with a young South African girl.

Queen
Mhm.

Interviewer
And the purpose of, of collecting the, that many signatures and presenting it, what do you hope to do?

Queen
Well basically this was a campaign called the One Goal Campaign.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
Which was around the soccer World Cup that happened in South Africa…

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
…earlier this year. So we used that campaign to try to get people more aware about the cost of education. The thing is, most people agree that education is important.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
But they don’t sense, eh, the sense of urgency. They don’t see it as a life or death, uh, uh, cause.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
And this is what we are trying to get people to understand. That education can mean life or death.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
Uh, you know, for, uh, women who are educated, maternity deaths go down.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
A child is, is 50% more likely to survive beyond his fifth birthday if his mother is literate, um, 7 million cases of HIV AIDS can be avoided in the next decade if we get children into school.

Interviewer
Whoao.

Queen
So education is a matter of life and death.

Interviewer
Life and death.

Queen
It lifts people out of poverty, it, it, it transforms societies, it is the best gift we can give our, the younger generation, to give them a shot at a good future. So basically we collected 18 million signatures around the World Cup, uh, and I gave it to the US Secretary General, and the idea is to demonstrate that global education, there is a global demand for it, that people want this to move forward.

Interviewer
And so that every child in the world receives an education.

Queen
There are 70 million children who are out of school today. To get them into school, uh, requires 16, uh, billion dollars. Now that sounds like a lot of money but when you think about it, in 2008 we spent 10% of that on candy.

Interviewer
On candy?!

Queen
Yeah.

Interviewer
I…………………

Queen
So I mean, so when we say 16 billion dollars we are not asking for much.

Interviewer
Oh ho ho ho…..

Queen
We actually, uh, the same year, 2008, you know how much we spent on education? Just half a percent of the global military budget. So I think we need to change our priorities, it isn’t just a financial, uh, failure, I think it’s a moral failure and we need to reassess what really matters to us.

Interviewer
You know what I liked so much about the dinner the other night was when they were talking about when you educate a girl, what you do for the world. I mean, it, you know, we are such a, we are really such a force in terms of women people, the way we think, the way we nurture, the way we lead, and it was really striking to hear the difference that is made when you invest in the education, in the future of women all around the world.

Queen
I really believe that, you know, given the smallest chance, girls can make the biggest change. And it’s true when we say, educate a girl you educate a nation.

Interviewer
Yup.

Queen
Because ultimately, uh, even if they don’t work, girls, an educated woman is going to make a great mother.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
You know, she’s going to pass on the right values to her children, it transforms the whole of society, you know, uh, and sadly, you know, there are 35 million girls who are out of school, uh, not through any fault of their own but because of prejudice, poverty, place of birth, you know, a lottery of birth determines which girls blossom and get to have a future and which ones are locked in poverty, you know, and spending their days fetching water…

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
…or caring for their, for elderly relatives who are getting married young. The sad thing is that in many countries, developing countries around the world, you’ll have a girl who has 10 years of experience, a husband and a baby on the way when she is still a teenager.

Interviewer
Mmmmmm.

Queen
Now there’s something wrong with that.

Interviewer
Yes, yes.

Queen
You know, a statistic that kind of shocked me the other day is that in some developing countries the leading cause of death for adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is medical complications related to pregnancy. That’s wrong.

Interviewer
No. That’s, and, and that’s something though that can be changed.

Queen
Absolutely.

Interviewer
That’s what’s so frustrating about it.

Queen
Absolutely.

Interviewer
That we can do something about. You know, I was saying when I was seated next to the dinner I, I was, I was talking to you about, with a little trepidation because you know the controversy that’s going on in the mosque and I’m not asking you to offer an official opinion here but I did wanna talk to you about it, because I said I’m almost embarrassed to say this to you because I’m, I’m, we’ve been having a big controversy about the mosque and I was saying, you know, I’m in favour of Islaam, in favour of the Muslim religion, but it’s hard to be on board for me to have the, the mosque built at that location. And I said that to you and, and bless you Your Majesty, you didn’t start hitting me, you didn’t start wailing, you didn’t start screaming and saying “what’s wrong with you?!” and I’m just trying to figure out how we can have the conversation, because when I asked favourite listeners, most people have never even talked to a Muslim, ever! And they have no knowledge about the Muslim religion or the Muslim people. And I’m trying to figure out, what do you think is the best way that we can sort of build the bridges or build the gap to make people see, you know, how, how, um, how ridiculous some of the arguments are about what’s going on with the controversy in the mosque.

Queen
Yeah, you know, you know Gayle, I think what, what, what matters to me more is not whether the Islamic Center is built or not, but rather the conversation and the debate that takes place beforehand that leads to the decision.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
So is this a well-informed, reasonable debate that’s taking place by people who really care about the issues?

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
You know, what’s really surprised me is how inflamed and how this whole issue has become…

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
…and the outrage that has emerged, you know, and it worries me that maybe the conversation is being dominated by radicals who want to spread fear and suspicion between people. Or…

Interviewer
And promote ignorance too, you know. Some of the things that are….

Queen
…or by people who want to use it as a political tool.

Interviewer
Yes, yes.

Queen
You know, that’s even worse.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
But, you know, it has to be, it has to be an informed and reasonable debate because we have a responsibility.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
The kind of conversation that we are having now is gonna have an effect on the social and cultural landscape for our young generation.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
You know, what kind of atmosphere are young Americans gonna grow up with. How are they gonna deal with people from different religions, uh, whether Muslims or otherwise, is there gonna be a culture of fear that’s going to be entrenched in, in social attitudes? So it’s really important that the conversation is a well informed one that, you know, people understand, that having the Islamic Center is not playing in the hands of the Bin Ladens of this world, but rather it undermines and confronts them. You know, likewise, those who are building the center need to sit down and listen to the mothers who have lost loved ones in 9/11.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
And that conversation, that kind of compassionate conversation, what the center should be about at the end of the day is reconciliation…

Interviewer
Mhmm….mhmm.

Queen
…and tolerance. And these are the values that are so inherent in Amer….in, in the United States.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
You know, I mean, people look at the United States…

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
…uh, as being, as having leadership when it comes to freedom of worship and religious tolerance.

Interviewer
I wonder about the message that’s being sent worldwide around the world, in Jordan for example, when they hear this controversy, what they must think of us.

Queen
It’s…

Interviewer
You know, we had a, we had a terrible story here where a guy who I really thought was sort of cuckoo for coco pops was talking about burning the Quran on 9/11 and I thought “he doesn’t speak for me or represent me”. And I’m wondering if, you know, and I’m thinking of, in the Muslim community, they are saying “those extremists who are responsible for 9/11, they don’t speak for me”.

Queen
Absolutely.

Interviewer
And we were both saying the same thing, you know?

Queen
And what, and what that means is that we need to redraw the battle lines. This is not Christians against Muslims, this is not Arabs against the Americans, this is extremists on one side and moderates on the other.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
And until we can really understand that and, and internalise it then there’s always going to be that fear and suspicion that we carry in our hearts and I think that is one of the worst and cruellest legacies of 9/11, is the fact that people walk around now and, and, and I, they are very suspicious of somebody who dresses differently or, or prays differently, or has different, uh, uh cultural, em, uh, practices.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
You know, what, what people look at the United States, they look up to the United States for having leadership when it comes to openness…

Interviewer
Yes, yes.

Queen
And, and embracing different people and, and people have a chance here in the United States to make it regardless of their background…

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
…or where they come from.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
Now, I think that the people of the United States need to decide whether they want to continue to have that leadership role or are they going to move backwards? And I, it would be such a shame, because even in the Arab world, you know, we look with admiration at the United States for those very values.

Interviewer
Yeah, even still. You know, I have great faith in the young generation. I look at my own two children who I was, you know, 23 and 24, who both adamantly disagree with me about this particular issue. They had something on Good Morning America this morning where they interviewed a group of teenagers, and most of the teenagers said that the mosque should be built there. I wanna know what you think about that. These are the young people, the future generation coming up. Even when they disagree with their parents. It was fascinating to watch. I’d like to know what you think. We are talking to Queen Rania of Jordan, we are taking a break, we’ll be back with the Queen in just a sec.

Interviewer
Welcome Back to the Gayle King Show. Guess what, the Queen is still here! She’s still here. Thank you Queen Rania is joining us from Jordan and we were talking. I was talking to you about a piece I saw on Good Morning America a couple of days ago where they talked to a, a group of young teenagers about the mosque. Should it be built in that area, should it not? And, you know, it, it was interesting to see that most of the young people were in favour and I’m curious about your feelings when you hear, um, young people speaking up about this particular issue.

Queen
Whether the Islamic Center should be built or not I think should be decided by what is the best route towards reconciliation. If having, if having it there will bring about a reconciliation and tolerance and all those values that we want to spread, then let’s have it there. If it’s about confrontation and if it’s gonna be a divisive issue then maybe not, you know? I think that’s what we have, we have to keep our minds open.

Interviewer
That is the question.

Queen
We have to keep our minds open and we have to do what’s the best, in the best interests of bringing moderates together.

Interviewer
We should say we are talking to Queen Rania of Jordan, Your Majesty turned 40 recently.

Queen
Mhm (laugh).

Interviewer
How old do you feel?

Queen
I think I still feel, um, 27 (laugh).

Interviewer
Do you feel, I know, I’m 35 and I feel 38. I don’t feel fif.., I don’t even feel forty yet.

Queen
I tell you, 39 I think was the most difficult year because…

Interviewer
Why?

Queen
Because, because I was worried about the big 40, you know, and I was dreading it and I was wondering what’s gonna happen when I turn 40, but actually when I did turn 40 it was absolutely liberating.

Interviewer
Aha, was it?

Queen
I just felt like, you know, I felt like, mm, I am the same person, you know, nothing’s changed and in fact, you know, uh maybe I have lower expectations and therefore I feel just much happier where, with, with who I am and..

Interviewer
Well, I’m so glad you feel that because I mean, some women, so many women who turn 40 and turn 50 and then say “I’m not discussing my age” because they’re having trouble with getting older and I think when you look the way you do and you feel the way you do I think it just sends a whole new message about what 40 is like and what 50’s like and I think it’s something to be celebrated.

Queen
Absolutely, and you know, everything, eh, is anti-ageing, anti, we need some pro..

Interviewer
Yes. I have lots of anti-ageing products, Queen Rania.

Queen
We need some pro-ageing, you know?

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
Because I think this, it’s, it’s a subliminal message…

Interviewer
You’re right, you’re right.

Queen
That tells you that getting older is a terrible thing.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
And I think that that’s been really ingrained in us that, eh, getting older is all about bad, bad, bad. But it’s not, you know?

Interviewer
Well you know, when I turned 50 I got an application, uh, I got a, a subscription to the, uh, Association, the Association of American Retired Persons and I literally called them and said “take me off the list!”.

Queen
(Laugh).

Interviewer
I don’t wanna be on the magazine circular that sends to old people which, you’re right, sends a total different message.

Queen
And, you know, we have to realise that in many cultures..

Interviewer
Embrace it. Yes.

Queen
They embrace it and actually being older means that you are more respected in the society, that you have the wisdom and the experience and, and just to me, I, I just find it really quite liberating. I feel that there is less to prove to anybody, that I am more comfortable in my own skin..

Interviewer
Uhuh.

Queen
And, you know, that I just wanna, I, I take it easy on myself, I take it easy in general about, you know, um, not having to get it perfect and right every time, I, I just, I think you really value it ..

Interviewer
For yourself.

Queen
And you realise what’s, what’s really important.

Interviewer
Well, I have to say you are one of the coolest Queens I know..

Queen
Oh thank you.

Interviewer
That’s of all the Queens you are certainly, you are, you’re a big twitterer, I mean, so, I mean you’re very involved with the social media, you are the mother of four, I think your oldest is sixteen to five?

Queen
Sixteen, yeah.

Interviewer
Sixteen to five. And I’m wondering what it’s like being you, being Queen. I, I, I really loved when you were on Oprah recently and you said there were certain things that I like to do that only a mother can do, because, it goes without saying you have a lot of help, I understand that, but you said there are certain things that only a mother can do. I know for myself, when my kids were born they were 11 months apart and Oprah, her, her favourite gift to me was she made it possible for me to have live-in help. And even with live-in help I would always get up in the middle of the night with Kirby and Will, because I said “I wanna be the one that helps him”. She goes “but you have somebody. Why are you doing this to yourself? You’re tired, why do you do it?”, so for me, that was what I wanna do. What does it mean for you when you said “there are certain things that only a mother can do”, what does that mean to you?

Queen
You know, because ultimately I am a mother, you know?

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
I am a wife, I am a daughter, I am a friend, and it’s important for me to really experience all of those relationships in the deepest way, because that’s rewarding for me, you know? It’s rewarding for me when I spend time with my children and I connect with them and, and, and feel like a mother, um, being Queen means just that, that on top of all of that I have to worry about a nation, you know.

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
And, uh, it also means that sometimes I wanna make sure that my children are not paying the price for the job that I have to..

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
Um, that I have to, uh, take on, because, you know, they are children at the end of the day..

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
And they need, they have the same needs as every other child..

Interviewer
Yeah.

Queen
They need their mother to be there, they need to connect with their mother, they need the support and the love, and although I have..

Interviewer
They know that their mother’s the Queen. I mean, just when you say being Queen, do you know, do you feel like “I am the Queen” and does that ever take you aback when you go “I’m the Queen”. You know, when you walk in the room people are going “there’s Queen Rania, the tall one”.

Queen
I, um, I don’t know if it’s, if I do this consciously or, or subconsciously but I’m totally not aware of being Queen.

Interviewer
You’re not?!

Queen
Uh, I’m, I’m totally not aware of it and I, and I, and by not being aware of it I think that other people, when they interact with me, I’m hoping that they’re not aware of it, because the kind of interactions I wanna have with people, I really want them to be genuine.

Interviewer
Yeah, yeah.

Queen
I want them to be sincere and real.

Interviewer
You do inspire that, you really do.

Queen
I really want that because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s more rewarding for me and for, for the people I’m with.

Interviewer
Mhm.

Queen
You know, I, I, I want truth, I want honesty, I want sincerity. What’s the point of formality and people just telling you nice things if they don’t mean it, or..

Interviewer
No, I know.

Queen
You know, life is too short, you know?

Interviewer
No you’ve definitely, you know you definitely do that, I, I have to say at the dinner the other night I was watching your security detail which are, you know, they’re very vigilant, but they’re not standing over you and they had a really nice way of allowing people to approach but if people stayed a little too long they would just stand there like, okay..

Queen
Mhm.

Interviewer
But they did it in a very nice way and I think that that’s the message that you send, do you know what I mean? They’re doing that because you send that message.

Queen
Yes, you know, I mean there are certain things that I can’t control..

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
But, uh, but I do sort of talk to them and try to explain how I, I think with time they kind of understand how I like things done..

Interviewer
Yes.

Queen
And we reach some kind of middle ground where they’re happy (laugh) and I’m happy.

Interviewer
And you’re happy.

Queen
So..

Interviewer
But I like that you said, you know, “I’m not really aware of being Queen”. You’re not really aware of that?

Queen
No, I hope I never will be because that’s not who I am, no, it’s a job, it’s a job title at the end of the day.

Interviewer
So if people said “Queen Rania is…..”, how would you finish that sentence, if you take out all the Queen characteristics, what would you say? “Queen Rania is….”?

Queen
A real person.

Interviewer
A real person. I am so delighted that you took the time, because I know you’re so busy, I am so honoured to have you here, and I am blown away that the seating, that you had something to do with the seating because I’m thinking, well, you know, somebody does the seating, it never occurred to me that you..

Queen
Uh-uh (laugh).

Interviewer
Would be involved with that.

Queen
That’s one of the privileges of being Queen (laughter).

Interviewer
And you get to decide who, because it was, I was on one side and (Grasson Michelle????), who I also know from South Africa, was on the other. Thank you, Queen Rania.

Queen
Thank you so much.

Interviewer
Good to see you.

Queen
Thank you.

Interviewer
Good to see you.

Gayle.mp3

 

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