A sym­bol of tol­er­ance

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Shahid M Amin

of world fi­nance and busi­ness. The mayor of Lon­don con­trols the po­lice, trans­porta­tion, hous­ing, plan­ning and tourism. In the elec­tion, Sadiq de­feated Zac Gold­smith, the brother of Im­ran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima. The con­trast be­tween them could not have been more vivid. Zac Gold­smith is up­per class, rich, and highly priv­i­leged whereas Sadiq Khan was the com­moner who came up the ranks through sheer merit and hard work. As an ad­mirer put it: “I think he is a good role model for lots of rea­sons. He is eth­nic mi­nor­ity, didn’t go to Oxbridge, grew up in a coun­cil house, and has work­ing-class roots.”

Zac Gold­smith did try some be­low-the-belt tac­tics and sought to cash on Is­lam­o­pho­bia by sug­gest­ing that Sadiq had had links with Mus­lim ex­trem­ists. But such in­nu­en­dos might have back­fired as sug­gested by the huge num­ber of votes in favour of Sadiq Khan. Through­out the elec­tion cam­paign, Sadiq Khan made no se­cret of his Mus­lim faith. Ear­lier, when he joined the Privy Coun­cil, when he had to make an oath be­fore the Queen, he asked to be sworn us­ing a copy of the Ko­ran. Sadiq Khan has also spo­ken of hav­ing mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties that co­ex­ist. “I am a Lon­doner, I am Euro­pean, I am Bri­tish, I am English, I am of Is­lamic faith, of Asian ori­gin, of Pak­istani her­itage, a dad, and a hus­band.”

Af­ter win­ning the elec­tion, Sadiq Khan said: “I am so proud that Lon­don has to­day cho­sen hope over fear.” In­deed, his vic­tory is a re­mark­able tri­umph over the racial and re­li­gious ten­sions that have be­dev­illed other Euro­pean cap­i­tals. His vic­tory is be­ing scru­ti­nised around the Email:shahid_m_amin@hot­mail.com world, par­tic­u­larly in Euro­pean coun­tries strug­gling to in­te­grate Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. Re­cently, there has been an in­crease in pop­u­lar­ity of anti-im­mi­gra­tion right wing par­ties in Europe, in the wake of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris and Brus­sels. But it is Lon­don that has re­versed the trend. It is no­table that among the first to con­grat­u­late Sadiq Khan were the may­ors of Paris and New York. Lord Hain, a for­mer Labour cabi­net Min­is­ter said: “In the dom­i­nant Bri­tish city, prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant city in the world, to have a Mus­lim mayor is an im­por­tant state­ment.”

It can be ar­gued that Sadiq Khan’s elec­tion is the best an­swer to Mus­lim ex­trem­ists on the one hand, and to the white su­prem­a­cist Is­lam-hat­ing cir­cles on the other. In an in­ter­view, he said that the elec­tion showed that ac­tu­ally there was no clash of civil­i­sa­tion be­tween Is­lam and the West. “I am the West, I am a Lon­doner, I am Bri­tish, I am of Is­lamic faith, Asian ori­gin, Pak­istan her­itage, so whether it is ISIS or these oth­ers who want to de­stroy our way of life, they are talk­ing about me. What bet­ter an­ti­dote to the ha­tred they spew than some­one like me be­ing in this po­si­tion?” Sadiq Khan has come out squarely against the grow­ing threat of Is­lamist ex­trem­ism. He said: “My num­ber one pri­or­ity will al­ways be keep­ing Lon­don­ers safe. I am par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the grow­ing threat of ex­trem­ism and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion in Lon­don, and I don’t hes­i­tate to say that I’ll be the Bri­tish Mus­lim who takes the fight to the ex­trem­ists.” He wants to use his own ex­pe­ri­ences to de­feat rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and ex­trem­ism.

In the USA, a right­ist group de­scribed Sadiq Khan as the “First Mus­lim Mayor of Lon­don­istan”. Don­ald Trump, how­ever, sounded con­cil­ia­tory and said that an ex­cep­tion could be made for peo­ple like Sadiq Khan to en­ter the USA de­spite his ear­lier stance that a gen­eral ban should be placed on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try. Sadiq Khan re­jected the sug­ges­tion and con­demned Trump’s idea of plac­ing a ban on Mus­lims in gen­eral. By giv­ing an im­pres­sion that Is­lam and the West were in­com­pat­i­ble, Trump was “play­ing into the hands of the ex­trem­ists.” Sadiq Khan also said that in the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Amer­i­can peo­ple had “a choice of hope over fear, of unity over di­vi­sion, a choice of di­vid­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­ica and di­vide Amer­ica from the rest of the world.” For this rea­son, he hoped Hil­lary Clin­ton would win the next elec­tion.

Sadiq Khan has clear ideas about his poli­cies. He will be “the most pro-busi­ness Mayor Lon­don has ever had”. He will sup­port small busi­nesses and wants few visa re­stric­tions. He will freeze Lon­don’s Tube, train and bus fares for four years. He sup­ports Prime Min­is­ter Cameron’s bid to keep the UK in the EU. He warns that Bri­tain’s exit from the EU would hurt Lon­don very badly in terms of jobs, busi­ness and tourism. Im­me­di­ately af­ter be­com­ing Mayor, Sadiq Khan joined the Jews in a cer­e­mony mark­ing the Holo­caust and he has since vis­ited the main Hindu tem­ple. His elec­tion as Mayor of Lon­don is a sym­bol of tol­er­ance and he wants to prove this by his per­sonal ex­am­ple. — The writer served as Pak­istan’s Am­bas­sador to Saudi Ara­bia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nige­ria and Libya.

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