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Sadiq Khan, First Muslim to Become London’s Mayor | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan has gone from a public housing estate in the British capital to running the city, a remarkable rise for the Pakistani immigrant bus driver’s son (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

London- Sadiq Khan, 45, a Labor Party leader, a former human rights lawyer and a son of a bus driver from Pakistan, was declared the winner after a protracted count that extended into Saturday; thus, becoming the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital after beating Tory Zac Goldsmith.

The victory also makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West.

Khan won with 56.8 percent of the vote versus 43.2 percent for Mr. Goldsmith, according to London’s election body.

Many described Khan’s victory as “historic.”

Khan has a simple, striking message for Londoners: He’s going to be a mayor for all.

To emphasize his message, Khan celebrated his landslide election victory Saturday in a multi-faith ceremony at a riverside Anglican cathedral.

He says he’s determined to be an approachable Everyman for his city of 8.2 million — including a million residents who, like him, happen to be Muslim.

Khan will succeed Boris Johnson, a Conservative who has held the post since 2008 and is a leading figure in the campaign for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn led congratulations on Twitter using the hashtag “YesWeKhan” and telling the new mayor: “Congratulations Sadiq Khan. Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo added on Twitter that Khan’s “humanity, progressivism will benefit Londoners.”

For her part, Zac Goldsmith’s sister Jemima has criticized how his campaign was run tweeting, “Sad that Zac’s campaign did not reflect who I know him to be, an eco-friendly, independent-minded politician with integrity.”

She also congratulated Khan, calling him a “great example to young Muslims”.

Plaudits for Khan flooded in from as far afield as New York, whose Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter: “Sending congratulations to London’s new mayor and fellow affordable housing advocate, @SadiqKhan. Look forward to working together!”

Khan held his lead in the opinion polls, despite accusations by Goldsmith that he has shared platforms with radical Muslim speakers and given “oxygen” to extremists.

The new mayor says he has fought extremism all his life and he regrets sharing a stage with speakers who held “abhorrent” views.

The Labor Party accused Goldsmith and the ruling Conservative Party of smearing Khan. Goldsmith penned an article in the “Mail on Sunday,” suggesting that Khan had “repeatedly legitimized those with extremist views.”

The article was illustrated with a picture from the July 7, 2005, bombings in London, which left 52 people dead.

On the other hand, Khan’s party fared less well in other local and regional elections on Britain’s “Super Thursday,” in which 45 million Britons were eligible to vote.

For the first time in decades, Labor came third in elections for the devolved government in Scotland, behind the Conservatives, in a vote won by the incumbent pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will lead the separatist party into its third successive government in Edinburgh, although the party lost its outright majority.

She announced she would lead a minority administration, and played down talk of a fresh independence referendum to follow the unsuccessful one in 2014.

“The SNP will always make our case with passion, with patience and with respect but our aim is to persuade not to divide,” Sturgeon said.