As difficult as it may be, London mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan MP, is right not to be baited by Islamophobes in his campaign to replace Boris Johnson. There is already more than enough negativity associated with politics to avoid the real issues. It has become even worse when Muslims are smeared with insinuations just because of their faith.
An assorted spate of pernicious newspaper headlines have claimed that the former Shadow Justice Secretary had links with radicals and spoke with ‘black flag of jihad’. Even before he won the Labour nomination, broadcaster LBC commissioned a divisive poll and misleadingly claimed half of Londoners would be uncomfortable with a Muslim mayor. Most recently, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, jumped on the bandwagon, saying he was “unfit” because he spoke alongside extremists.
Khan, who is the first Muslim to attend Cabinet, is far from being the first victim of hate crime and unfortunately certainly won’t be the last. But if evidence was still needed, it does prove that Islamophobia has been mainstreamed in modern Britain. As journalist Mehdi Hasan recently asked in a Guardian opinion piece: ‘If a moderate like Sadiq Khan shouldn’t stand for London mayor, which Muslim can?’
Particularly worrying is that neither the Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith nor Prime Minister, David Cameron, have condemned Fallon’s latest attack that was delivered in a speech to party activists. “We need a candidate who can unite our city, not a Labour lackey who speaks alongside extremists, proving himself unfit to perform that role,” Fallon said, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.
On the contrary, Cameron had earlier insinuated that Khan would not be able to keep London safe from terrorism like Zac would.
Speaking at the rally in Mill Hill, north London, Cameron told an audience of Tory supporters: “We have to recognise the scale of the terrorist threat we face in London. What happened in Paris, that could have happened here… And I know working with Zac I’ll be able to do just that: a mayor and a Prime Minister who know we have got to be tough on the Islamist extremists that want to divide our country.”
As Khan emphasised in his interview with The Muslim News, he has spent his entire adult life encouraging people to get involved in mainstream politics and in civic society. His justifiable worries are the Islamophobic signals and how widespread they have become. “If this is how somebody like Sadiq is treated, if this is what happens to him why should we bother to get involved? Why should we advise our nephews and nieces, why should we advise our sons and daughters, why should we get involved in mainstream politics?” he questioned.
Despite being subjected to the smears, suspicions and innuendos, the Labour candidate insists that he still wants to run a “positive” campaign.
“I will not allow the desperation of my opponents to make me stoop to their level. You know, we have got to celebrate the best of our city. That should incentivise your readers to register, get involved in the election, because our values of positivity, of seeing the best in people, of being a friend to your neighbour, those values are a beacon for the rest of the world.”
“Imagine the message it will send, to the rest of the country, the rest of Europe, the rest of the world, that London has chosen as their mayor the son of immigrants, someone who was raised on a council estate, somebody who is not just an ethnic minority but a religious minority, somebody who has got friends who are Jewish, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, people of not organised faith. That I think will win over these people. That is how I am going to defeat these comments..”
If Khan loses, will it represent a pyrrhic victory in some way for those wishing to exclude Muslims, and maybe not only Muslims but any minority ethnic or not, from mainstream political life and civic society? Would it be an equivalent triumph for racists, fascists and white supremists? Whatever else, the election for the next London mayor, deserves to be one based on issues facing people living in the capital and not prejudices or bigotry.
[Photo Sadiq Khan, MP. Photo by Steve Punter/Creative Commons]
Interview: Every Londoner must have chance to fulfil their potential, says Khan