The blood on the walls of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando hadn’t had a chance to dry before Donald Trump made his pronouncement on who was to blame. After 49 club-goers were slain in a cold-hearted frenzy of hate, he declared: “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here… We are importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system.”
Aside from Native Americans, everyone in the US is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants, but Donald Trump wants to prevent a very particular group of migrants - Muslims. In one fell swoop, Trump demonised approximately 22% of the entire population of earth. “The ban will be lifted when we as a nation are in a position to properly and perfectly screen those people coming into our country,” said Trump.
Just over a month earlier, London elected its first-ever Muslim mayor - the first Muslim leader of a major Western capital. Unsurprisingly, Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump don’t exactly enjoy a mutually loving relationship. Sadiq challenged Trump with a question: “Are you inadvertently making our countries less safe by giving the impression there is a clash of civilisations? Are you doing the job of Daesh and the extremists for them by saying the West hates Islam? I am the West!” Khan warned that the billionaire’s “ignorant” view of Islam could make both Britain and the US less safe.
“Donald Trump and those around him think that Western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam - London has proved him wrong.
“There are literally hundreds of thousands of Londoners who are Muslim and Western. Meet my family, meet me, meet my friends, meet other Londoners, and hopefully that will reassure you that it’s possible.”
It would be easy to dismiss Donald Trump’s headline-grabbing speeches as the outpourings of a fame-hungry lunatic, albeit one who may soon be the leader of the free world. But Trump just voices the fears of many who worry about the threat of extreme Islam and the creep of Islamification across the West. Is the election of Khan a sign that the indigenous population of the UK is being stealthily swept aside?
The Conservatives certainly believed that people felt this way, and their mayoral campaign concentrated on questioning Khan’s perceived connections to extremists. Zac Goldsmith, an intelligent, articulate candidate best known for his passionate green credentials, fought a campaign that was so negative that his closest friends seemed to be genuinely shocked.
David Cameron joined the attack. “I am concerned about Labour’s candidate as Mayor of London, who has appeared on a platform with Suliman Gani nine times. This man supports Islamic State… Anyone can make a mistake about who they appear on a platform with. But if you do it time after time, it is right to question your judgement.” Gani, an Imam in Khan’s Tooting constituency angrily rejected such claims, and is, in fact, a Conservative supporter.
Cameron apologised, and during the Remain campaign (during which he shared a stage with Sadiq Kahn), he was asked by The Times’ Jenni Russell if he now thinks it’s a good thing that a major Western city has a Muslim mayor? “Yes, yes I do. We’ve got to win the argument that this fight we’re engaged in isn’t between Christianity and Islam, but within Islam, against a small minority … and if someone like Sadiq can demonstrate that Muslims, Christians and Jews can work together, that’s a very good thing.”
Sometimes a politician cannot just represent his or her own philosophies; by a quirk of history, they are destined to carry the weight of representing their race, gender or religion. Barack Obama was never going to be judged as the 44th President of the United States. In a nation which is only one generation away from racial segregation, he knows he will be judged on his legacy of how he helped advance the cause of black Americans.
Mrs Thatcher seemed less concerned about her responsibility to her gender. In all her time as Prime Minister, Baroness Young, a close friend of the Prime Minister, was the only female promoted to the cabinet. No wonder Spitting Image caricatured her as being the most masculine politician of her generation, famously showing her standing at a urinal. Khan knows the eyes of the world will be upon him, a man of Islam in a world that teeters on the edge of being ripped apart by mistrust and hostility between faiths. Already he has been accused of imposing Sharia Law - and being a Zionist!
As London Mayor, one of Sadiq Khan’s first moves was to ban all adverts which portray “an unhealthy body image” from appearing on London’s transport network. An example cited was an advert showing a skinny bikini model, with the question: “Are you beach body ready?”
Khan said, “Nobody should feel pressurised while they travel on the Tube or bus into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies, and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this.”
A blow for women’s rights, but one woman’s feminism is another man’s misogyny. Brighton’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas, campaigned to ban The Sun’s Page 3 girls for the way it objectifies women. Displaying female flesh in public view also offends the Taliban, for an entirely different reason.
Twitter soon came alive with comments questioning Khan’s motives: “This Mayor is pushing his conservative Muslim views. All the while stroking the egos of the feminist.” “As per Sharia Law, Muslim mayor of London will ban ads that show beautiful female bodies.” “He is using feminist talking points to enact Sharia policy.”
Brendan O’Neill commented in The Spectator: “Sadiq’s ban sets a mad precedent. He says he wants to squash ads which give people ‘unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies’. But advertising is all about unrealistic expectations. Ads are packed with stupidly handsome blokes and gorgeous women all having a mighty fine time as they book that holiday some of us can’t afford or down those beers the rest of us would also be downing if only we weren’t on our way to the bloody office. That’s what ads do: they say, ‘Hey. Don’t you wish you were doing this? And looked like this? And owned this?’
“… Now that Sadiq has set himself up as slayer of evil words and pictures to protect Londoners from feeling bad, there’s no telling what he’ll crush next.” So is Khan easing in Sharia Law by stealth? Not according to Hafsa Kara-Mustapha from middleeasteye.net.
On his first day in office, he attended the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Ceremony standing alongside Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the very same Rabbi who had accused Labour of having a ‘severe’ problem with anti-Semitism. Clever PR from Khan? Not according to Kara-Mustapha, who accuses Sadiq of having form on the Israel- Palestine issue.
She wrote: “When the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) invited Khan to an event commemorating the Nakba, or catastrophe, marking the expulsion and ethnic cleansing in 1948 of Palestinians, Khan ignored it. Time and again Khan has openly sided with Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians, of whose cause Londoners have been increasingly supportive.
“As the anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism row continues to rock the Labour Party, one thing at least has emerged since May’s election: you do not have to be Jewish to be Zionist, in fact, you can be a Muslim too. Mayor Khan is the proof of this.” Zionist? Islamist? Socilaist? Entrepreneur? Who is the real Sadiq Khan?
Khan was born at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London, the fifth of eight children in a working class Sunni Muslim family of Pakistani immigrants. His grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947, and his parents migrated to England from Pakistan shortly before Khan was born. His late father, Amanullah Khan, worked as a bus driver for over 25 years; his mother, Sehrun, was a seamstress.
Khan is clearly proud of both his working class roots and the work ethic which is installed in the psyche of the immigrant. “London gave me all my chances to fulfil my potential,” he told Alistair Campbell in GQ.
“My parents were immigrants. My dad passed away in 2003, he had been a bus driver for 25 years, my mum sewed clothes, raised eight children, but we had security of housing, it was affordable, they could put money aside to get our own home; we went to good local schools and our parents said, ‘Listen to the teachers.’ They pushed us All of us who wanted to go to university did. I came home after law school, slept in the same top bunk, saving for a deposit, then my wife and I got a property in our mid-twenties. I was a lawyer, ran a business, MP, then sat at the Cabinet table... that is the London story. Too many people miss out on those chances now.”
Khan and his siblings grew up in a three-bedroom council flat on the Henry Prince Estate in Earlsfield. He attended Fircroft Primary School and then Ernest Bevin School (now Ernest Bevin College), a local comprehensive. Khan studied science and mathematics at A-level in the hope of eventually qualifying as a dentist. A teacher recommended that he read law, as he had an argumentative personality. He entered the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University) to study law. According to his Wikipedia biography, he and his family often encountered racism, which led to him and his brothers taking up boxing at the Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club. While studying for his degree, from the age of 18 to 21, he worked on Saturdays at the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square.
He completed the Law Society finals at the College of Law in Guildford. From 1994 to 1997, he was employed as a trainee solicitor and assistant solicitor and from 1997 to 2005, was a partner in the firm ‘Christian Khan’ with Louise Christian.
During his legal career he represented actions against the police, employment and discrimination law. By taking on controversial cases against the police and establishment, he earned a reputation as a radical and as being politically motivated - a perception pounced on by certain newspapers during the mayoral campaign. Added to his nomination of Jeremy Corbyn, he was labelled as a left winger who could not be trusted in office. In fact, his politics are closer to the moderate wing of the Labour Party and he is an admirer of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
George Eaton wrote in The New Statesman: “His election leaflets rooted his policies in his personal story, ‘the bus driver’s son who’ll make commuting more affordable, the council estate boy who’ll fix the Tory housing crisis and the British Muslim who’ll take on the extremists.’ By the end of the campaign, journalists groaned at the mention of his bus driver father: a sure sign of success.
“Khan spoke of how ‘too many British Muslims grow up without really knowing anyone from a different background,’ warning that the political establishment had for too long ‘tolerated segregation’ at the expense of ‘creating a common life.’”
Unlike the Corbynistas, Khan has an authentic appreciation of entrepreneurship and those who exhibit business acumen. It is estimated that a fifth of London’s Pakistanis are self-employed, and he has experienced the highs and lows of being in business.
In his manifesto he pledged: “I’m determined to be the most pro-business Mayor of London yet. I’ll make engagement with industry – from small independents and start-ups to global corporations – a key part of decision-making at City Hall. When it comes to planning London’s future economic development, infrastructure, skills and housing will be my foremost priorities. And I’ll build stronger partnerships between the private sector, public and voluntary agencies to work strategically across London – making sure that the good work that is done across the city on skills and economic development is properly joined up.”
He is passionate about putting Londoners first when it comes to housing. “You have to intervene in the market,” he told Alistair Campbell. “The market isn’t working. I want half to be genuinely affordable. No more selling off first to Asia and the Middle East. For six months they go first to Londoners. One of the top five estate agents advertised 700 properties to overseas buyers before marketing them in London. Another one had 50 cocktail parties in Singapore and Malaysia for properties not yet built. So there are going to be conditions for development: first, try to sell here, and they have to be affordable.”
He supports new aviation capacity for London and backs a second runway at Gatwick. He promises to champion London industry at home and abroad, making the case for inward investment in the City, and working to attract ever more global business.
In talking about innovation and housing, Khan is doing exactly what he should be doing - planning his policies for London. At the end of his stint as London Mayor, in an ideal world he should be judged on what he has done for Londoners and the City’s economy. However, his religion and background will always be at the forefront, because he is, whether he likes it or not, a flag bearer for Muslim moderation.
If we are to live together in peace, we need Muslim role models who will provide an alternative path to those who preach hate and division. Khan says, “We all have multiple identities. I am a dad, a husband, Londoner, Asian, British, Muslim. I never run away from my faith, but I don’t proselytise.”
He certainly never runs away, and there is no doubting his bravery. Whatever he does, there will be haters and he must be aware of the risks he takes.
Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered outside her constituency office in June, paid the ultimate price for her compassionate, inclusive politics. She was well aware of the dangers of race-hate crimes. She was planning to address parliament to introduce a report she had been working on with the Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks). The study is expected to conclude that there were about 80% more attacks on Muslims in Britain in 2015 than the year before.
Her killer shouted, “Britain First!” It may or may not have been a reference to the race-hate political group of the same name - but Khan is firmly on their radar.
The group’s leader, Paul Golding, issued a direct threat to Khan: “Britain First specialises in militant, direct action and has tracked down and confronted numerous hate preachers and terrorists.
“Britain First now considers all Muslim elected officials as ‘occupiers’ and will start to oppose their strategy of entryism and takeover of our political system.”
He went on to declare his groups would “focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives and official functions, including where they live, work, pray and so on.”
Khan is just as much at risk from Jihadists who despise his moderation and Western ideals.
Sadiq Khan shows no fear and declares: “Extremism is a cancer eating at the heart of our society, all the time. And if we’re honest, not enough has been done to root it out. That makes me angry. Angry because for too long we have buried our heads in the sand.”
“I believe that British Muslims have a special role to play in tackling extremism. A special role, not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else. Our role must be to challenge extremist views wherever we encounter them. To challenge this perverse ideology, and to insist that British values and Muslim values are one and the same.”
Whatever you may think of Khan’s party politics (or his stance on Europe), surely no-one can disagree with this, and we must sincerely hope that he succeeds in helping to build bridges between faiths.
George Eaton sums it up well: “Beyond London, as the first Muslim mayor of a major western city, Khan will be a figure of global significance. His election is a rebuke to extremists of all stripes, from Donald Trump to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (leader of ISIS), who assert that religions cannot peacefully co-exist.”