Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for London Mayor has underscored his belief in a multicultural west which embraces Islam and its values, proclaiming to Muslims abroad: “I am the west.” If elected, Khan will become London’s first Muslim mayor.
In an interview with The Spectator, Khan said that London is one of the best cities in the world to be a Muslim thanks to British laws protecting the rights of Muslims to follow their religion. So passionate is he about London’s openness to Islam, he insists that he wouldn’t want his daughters growing up anywhere else.
“There are laws here to protect them being discriminated against. Laws here that allow me, if I want to, to do my ablutions and pray. I could wear black and grow a beard; if my wife chose to she could wear a hijab. I feel so strongly about this,” he said.
Indeed, he feels so strongly that he wants the London mayoralty in his hands to be a beacon to Islamic nations: “we should explain to people in Muslim majority countries that I am the West,” he said, “so when they think they hate the West they are hating me.”
In a bid to distance himself from his party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose hard left brand includes overtones of anti-Semitism and a history of cosying up to Islamists such as Hamas and Hezbollah, Khan is at pains to point out that he is not in frequent contact with Corbyn. The last time they were together, he says, is when they had their photo taken together to promote the living wage. Instead, he paints himself as an inclusive candidate.
However, despite his praise for Londoner’s willingness to embrace multiculturalism, he still wants to see the city go further. Insisting that the government has a role to play in cranking up integration, rather than allowing London to develop naturally, he added: “We’ve got to think a bit more about how we encourage, cajole people into integrating much more.”
Those who Khan considers in need of more encouragement presumably include the one third of Londoners who are “uncomfortable” with the idea of a Muslim major, according to a recent YouGov poll for LBC radio.
Yet Londoners may have good cause for concern. In 2001, four years before his election to Parliament, Khan was the attorney acting for the Nation of Islam in its successful High Court bid to overturn the 15 year ban on its leader, Louis Farrakhan, visiting the UK. Khan described the judge’s decision as “very brave and sensible”.
In 2005, the same year that he was awarded Parliamentary Newcomer of the Year by The Spectator, Khan visited Babar Ahmad in Woodhill Prison, where he was being held on terrorism charges; he did so again the following year. Despite Khan’s best campaigning efforts to have Ahmed released, he was eventually extradited to the United States where he pleaded guilty to the terrorist offences of conspiracy, and providing material support to the Taliban.
Khan also campaigned for the release and repatriation of Shaker Aamer, Britain’s last Guantanamo detainee, who was returned to the UK in November. As part of his efforts to secure Aamer’s release, Khan lobbied the British Foreign Office and the office of the Prime Minister repeatedly, as well as taking part in demonstrations.
Both Aamer and Ahmed provide Khan with links to the advocacy group CAGE, which described the Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi as a “beautiful young man”, and which has campaigned on behalf of both men. When called upon to dissociate themselves from the Emwazi statement at a Home Affairs Committee meeting in November, both Dr Adnan Siddiqui, Director of CAGE, and Ibrahim Mohamoud, Communications Officer for CAGE refused to do so.
Khan has shared a platform with CAGE at an event in Parliament, alongside the Green Party member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, and Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, according to Khan’s office.