Arab Media Contrast Election of London’s First Muslim Mayor with Rise Of ‘Racist Trump’

arab media responds to khan
Rob Stothard/Getty

JAFFA, Israel – The election victory of Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, has been the subject of much discussion in the Arab news media and on social media.

Many commentators have juxtaposed the hope Khan’s victory inspired in them with the rise of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

The Lebanese pundit Elias Harfoush dedicated a column in the London-based Saudi newspaper Al Hayat to the issue. Entitled “Sadiq Khan in London – Trump in Washington,” the article posited that “politics in London and Washington never stood in a starker contrast to each other.”

“In London, the son of Pakistani immigrants was elected to the nation’s second most important job, after the prime minister, and entrusted with a $20 billion budget to run Europe’s largest city,” he wrote. “The American capital, however, jeopardizes its standing and future by electing one of its most racist and isolationist politicians, if Trump can be called a politician at all.”

“Nothing reflects the problem more than the embarrassment former President George H.W. Bush and his sons feel at the prospect of voting for Trump,” he wrote.

Asking whether London has become more “tolerant” than its American counterpart, Harfoush writes: “We will know that for sure when the results of Trump’s campaign are fully apparent, and once the extent of the American public’s surrender to Trump’s populism is revealed.”

Citing Republicans who say they would vote for Hillary Clinton, he wrote that “these voices in the anti-Trump American right makes me optimistic that most Americans will wake up before it’s too late, and before Trump pushes them down the abyss, together with the entire world.”

In the Emirates-based Eletihad newspaper, Kuwaiti columnist Abdullah Elshaiji wrote that “Khan’s victory is a huge step for Muslims in Europe, and a landmark moment in the battle against Islamophobia, especially at a time when Muslim communities are accused of extremism, terror, and isolationism.”

Elshaiji, Dean of Political Science at the University of Kuwait, contrasted Khan’s victory to the rise of “racist” Trump.

He wrote that “Khan’s victory in the shadow of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State threats, and specifically against the backdrop of their European recruits, does a great service to redressing the wholly negative image of Muslims and Islam. It may have positive effects on the rest of Europe and cross the Atlantic, and help tackle the steel barrier that has engulfed Muslim communities in the West. The barrier, preventing Muslims from integrating, is being fortified by a hate campaign against Muslims, led by the European right and the racist Republican candidate Donald Trump.”

“The same Trump,” Elshaiji emphasizes, “that following the San Bernardino and Paris attacks made overtly racist remarks, such as his suggestion to monitor Muslims on the street, an idea the head of the New York Police Department rejected entirely.”

“American Muslims are among the most successful in the United States,” he added. “Their level of education and salaries are above average.” Khan’s victory “marks the victory of tolerance and coexistence over Islamophobia, and the rejection of the far-right agenda in Europe and the United States.”

Khan’s victory attracted a great deal of attention on social media, but among the jubilant Muslims were some who disparaged him as a pro-gay Shi’ite.

Salman Aldossary, the editor-in-chief of the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, tweeted: “Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London and Donald Trump is the Republican candidate in the US… Londoners voted without one iota of racism – the exact opposite of the Americans!”

Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based Rai Alyoum newspaper, tweeted: “Khan’s victory must be, for us and for our leaders, a lesson about tolerance, coexistence, civilized debate, and the need to transcend any sort of sectarianism. But I fear this message will fall on deaf ears.”

Atwan later tweeted: “Sadiq Khan won but what people are interested in is his sectarian affiliation. What have we come to?”

The pro-Muslim Brotherhood Jordanian-Palestinian columnist Yasser Zaatreh wrote: “The election of Khan as Mayor of London is a momentous event, but those who voted for him can’t tell a Sunni from a Shi’ite. But he’s definitely a Shi’ite.”

He later tweeted: “Trump would allow Khan to visit the United States – he gave him a special permit. The cheek!”

“The media outlets that tell us that Sadiq Khan is a devout Muslim are the same that told us Obama was a black Muslim from Kenya!” Amjad Taha tweeted. “We’ve seen what his heritage is like.”

“Don’t celebrate Sadiq Khan’s victory as if it’s your and your religion’s victory,” Ragd Abdelaziz wrote. “It’s a victory for democracy that you despise that gives different people the same treatment.”

Hamid Albalushi, a journalist from Oman, tweeted: “I feel sorry for us…. Our appetite for victory made us celebrate Khan’s election that is based on a system that he and we see very differently.”

“The Arab commenters want to know whether Khan is Sunni or Shi’ite,” Ali Albahrani tweeted, “while Londoners want to know how he’ll serve them, develop their city, and fight for their rights. The gap between them and us is enormous.”

“This is how London reacted in its special way to Donald Trump and to the far-right discourse in Europe. Sadiq Khan is the mayor of the capital of fog.”