Written by The Parliament Magazine on 23 April 2019 in Opinion
Sajjad Karim is a member of the European Parliament's legal affairs committee
1. Which person have you worked with which has most inspired you in your career, and how?
Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with this person, but he has been a particular inspiration to me throughout my lifetime and career - Nelson Mandela. I remember as a 19-year-old, sitting watching television and witnessing two pivotal moments that completely changed my generation’s world. One was seeing people with their bare hands rip down the Berlin Wall and the other was the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. To see this man’s seemingly endless struggle finally come to an end, as well as that of the people of East Germany, changed the landscape of a working class boy from Lancashire. My canvass suddenly became so much bigger and I still take inspiration from it now.
2. How would you describe your political/leadership style in three words?
Integrity, commitment and persuasive.
3. What is the most humbling thing you have experienced in your career?
To receive the MEP Award for International Trade at this time in our political history, with Brexit and everything else that is going on, is really particularly sweet. It fills me with great pride to know that my efforts over the years have not gone unnoticed and that the work of British MEPs is still recognised. Also, receiving an award in Pakistan for my contribution towards EU-Pakistan relations - the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam - was quite humbling, particularly since one of my hero’s, Nelson Mandela, also received the same award.
4. What do you do in your free time to relax and unwind?
I like to spend time with my family back in the constituency, who I don’t get to see that often due to the nature of work as an MEP, but I also like to drive to relax and unwind. Driving is one of my main interests, but apart from that, I live and breathe politics and have done since I was just a boy. I first went leafleting at the age of seven for the then Conservative parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Pendle. So, generally speaking, I don’t have time for much else!
5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read and why?
Muhammad Ali’s autobiography is perhaps one of the most inspirational books I have read. To read about the way he gave up everything to fight for his basic rights and principles is truly inspiring. There is a moment in his book where he describes throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant. This to me epitomises his commitment to his principles that he strived for his entire life.