Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Mayor of London- Sadiq Khan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London has a population of more than eight million and of them, one million are Muslims. Despite the damage that extremists across Europe have done to Muslims’ reputations, the majority of the population elected a Muslim, Sadiq Khan, to be the mayor of London and this came as a surprise to many.

The mayor of London is an important position, and the city’s budget is £17 billion pounds; a figure that is higher than half the budgets of all Arab capitals. London has five airports, 43 universities, is the headquarters of the international media industry and has the largest number of wealthy people in the world.

Khan is a Londoner, he is not the leader of a mosque or a religious preacher. He has nothing to do with religious activities and won two electoral rounds with a civilian manifesto in which he promised Londoners that security would be strengthened, council services would be improved and the standard of housing would rise.

London has suffered from Muslim extremists just as Muslim Londoners have suffered as a result of terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS tarnishing their religion’s reputation.

The city has seen extremists incite hatred against others despite it protecting them from hunger and fear. These extremists turned against the city, incited violence in it and despised its government.

Khan, a Muslim, may adopt harsher policies against Muslim extremists than the previous mayor to stop the tides of extremism. He previously made frank statements against Hezbollah and Hamas, expressed his concern about the spread of extremism among young Muslims and said that he would lead a campaign to fight this spread. He also consolidated calls for tolerance by visiting temples and churches, appeared in the Indian press for visiting a Hindu temple and promised the audience that he would lead a team of British businessmen on a trip to India.

In London, a cosmopolitan city, there is a spectrum of colours and cultures. The mayor is not the only Muslim, there are many and include the singer Cat Stevens, the Great British Bake Off winner who baked the Queen’s ninetieth birthday cake Nadia Hussein, dozens of MPs, members of the House of Lords, university professors and doctors.

The mayor of London elections were colourful and surprising this time round because eleven candidates from various groups tried their luck in the race against Sadiq Khan who belongs to the Labour Party. However, the majority of the votes went to him by a wide margin. The candidate who came in second place belongs to the Jewish Goldsmith family. His sister Jemima is the ex-wife of the former Pakistani cricket captain and politician Imran Khan.

The people of London did not only surprise the world by electing a Muslim mayor; more importantly, they overwhelmingly voted against the BNP which is the only racist party – it received less than one per cent of the vote!

The big difference between the two candidates is not that they belong to two different religions. They also belong to different social classes. Sadiq Khan is the son of a bus driver, and his rival Zac Goldsmith’s father was a billionaire financier. Khan has attracted a lot of attention and admiration in the Arab world and many commentators saw his victory as a sign of tolerance overcoming hateful bigotry despite the pain experienced by Europe and that was caused by explosions and the spread of terrorist cells.

While Londoners choose a Muslim mayor, Americans are choosing the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his hate-filled propaganda.

The election of Khan expresses the feelings of Londoners and their liberal attitudes. London is one of the most important cities in the world and is the most dynamic. It is a leader of thought and culture in the world. Perhaps many people do not know that the first Arabs who settled in the capital of the empire in the nineteenth century were Yemenis who arrived there with the British navy.