Londoners have crowned the son of a Muslim immigrant as their new mayor, perhaps the most quintessential of British posts. Some pundits have already pegged Sadiq Khan as the next UK Prime Minister. Should this prophecy be fulfilled, would (potential) President Trump deign to dine with Khan at the White House, or would he stick to his pledge to ban all Muslims from the US of A?
Al Bawaba looks at the man behind the headlines to see how ‘Muslim' is this new face of London, and do his moderate stances make his Islam moot.
British born and bred, he's a rootin' Tooting ‘Souf London’ council lad! The fifth of eight kids in a family of Pakistani immigrants, he had a seamstress mum and a bus-driver dad. They lived in a three-bedroom council flat and he attended local state schools. (Sadiq shown here in his mother's arms.)
His humble roots, upward mobility and work ethic remind us of Margaret Thatcher, famous British working class icon and daughter of a grocery store owner. Khan’s “mum and dad [were] working all the time, so soon as I could get a job…. I got a paper round, a Saturday job – some summers I laboured on a building site.”
Muslim credentials of a moderate mayor: A good practicing Muslim, this mayor subscribes to the 5 pillars of Islam. Raised on a diet of Madrassa schooling and Friday mosques in London, he prays, fasts and has been on the Muslim pilgrimage at least once. In 2007 he was billed the first Western Minister to perform the Hajj.
The Muslim-Jewish face-off? Although his mayoral opponent Zac Goldsmith hails from Jewish lineage, it wasn't enough to make it explicitly a race between Muslim and Jew, despite some media outlets taunting readers by loading religious labels into their election coverage headlines.
Did Goldsmith forget his own Muslim connection? Goldsmith, charged with waging a smear campaign and denigrating Khan as a terrorist-loving Islamist, has a high profile sister who converted to Islam when she married to cricketer-politician, Imran Khan. Now divorced, Jemima Khan (no relation to Sadiq!) is now known as Jemima Goldsmith.
Khan on the UK’s political anti Semitism crisis: He came down on his own Labour party like a ton of British bricks suggesting that some of the old guard “need some training” on what qualifies as anti-Semitism. He attacked his now predecessor Ken Livingstone’s charge that Zionism enjoyed Adolf Hitler’s support as “disgusting”.
A pro-Jewish Muslim? Khan pointedly tagged himself as Jew-friendly, campaigning on the concept that his Muslim identity did not include anti-Semitic baggage. He told voters, “I’m going to be the mayor of the entire city. It’s really important that you know I’ll be on your side when it comes to the challenges the Jewish community will face."
On Israel: past records show him pitting himself with his BFF Ed Miliband against government inaction and silence on Israel. As MP, he didn't shy away from voicing his views on the Jewish state, once suggesting that Israel was being granted impunity by the British government, during a Gaza war, and citing a ‘failure to criticise Israel”.
Muslim and pro-gay? Sadiq Khan once again showed his counterintuitive colors when he signaled approval on gay rights. In 2013, he signed a bill in favor of same-sex marriage, an act that earned him death threats and prompted a mufti from Bradford to issue a fatwa declaring Khan an apostate. Hardly the hallmark behavior of a Muslim extremist.
More British than thou! Reacting to Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to sing the national tune, Khan said anyone aspiring to be PM should sing the anthem, adding that he sang it regularly. He also spoke with pride of kissing the Queen's hand when he was made a Privy Counsellor. His comments are all the more pointed given his Pakistani roots.
First Muslim Lady, unveiled: He's a smooth operator! Khan courted his wife, fellow lawyer Saadiya Ahmed, with movie dates and dinners at a Croydon McDonalds. They must've been 'happy meals' - the couple wed in 1994, and now have two teenage daughters.
First Muslim in Cabinet: In 2009, he became the first Muslim to attend Cabinet upon his appointment as Minister of State for Transport, and the second-ever Muslim member of Britain’s government. His win as Mayor is another Islamic first for London.
Radically Green and Muslim: Radical lean mean “green machine”! It makes sense that a man who ran the 2014 London Marathon would be concerned about clean air. As mayor of Europe’s most polluted city, where nearly 10,000 Londoners die as a direct result of air pollution annually, he’s proposed a plan of radical action.
Khan, a practicing Muslim, says he's "the British Muslim who will take the fight to the extremists." His family observes Ramadan and he was the first UK minister to make the pilgrimage to Hajj. Over 40% of Britain’s 1 million Muslims live in London, and Khan’s open admiration for his faith is reassuring against the rise of EU Islamophobia.