Prospective Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has made ‘sending a message’ to ‘haters’ in Iraq and Syria part of his campaign message, as he claims having a Muslim mayor “would speak volumes” to would-be terrorists abroad.
Khan’s comments are dutifully reported by The Guardian, which suggests having a Muslim mayor would be “helpful” – citing the Tunisia attack of this week and the 7/7 attacks of 2005 as proof, as if any were needed. Khan said because the 7/7 bombers were against British values, electing a Muslim mayor would send a “phenomenal message” to terrorists. He told The Guardian:
“If Londoners decided to do that, the message it would send to the rest of the world would be quite awesome. The reality is that we are a beacon in all sorts of ways. I think it’s just worth thinking about the impact it could have. It shows the confidence of Londoners – that we don’t simply tolerate but respect each other.
“The idea that the mayor of London could be son of an immigrant, son of a bus driver, ethnic minority – and by the way, of Islamic faith – would speak volumes, particularly when you bear in mind 10 years ago these four men wanted to destroy our way of life.
“What sort of message would it send if Londoners had the confidence, tolerance and respect to vote for someone of a different faith [from most of them]? I’m a Londoner first and foremost, but it would show the haters in Iraq and the haters in Syria what sort of country we are: a beacon. And I think the reality is sometimes you need cool, calm voices, which is what I’d hope to provide”.
Khan praised Conservative prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May’s approach to terrorism, as they did not lay responsibility for attacks at the door of the British Muslim population. He contrasted that soft approach to that of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, remarking:
“One of my criticisms of Tony Blair was when he called the four MPs of Islamic faith into No 10 and sat us round the table and said – to Mohammad Sarwar, Khalid Mahmood, Shahid Malik and myself – it was our responsibility.
“I said: ‘No, it’s not. Why have you called us in? I don’t blame you for the Ku Klux Klan. Why are you blaming me for the four bombers on 7/7?’ Which is why, after he called us in, and there were lots of cameras outside waiting to speak to us, my three colleagues spoke to the cameras and I walked away. This is a problem that is a mainstream problem for us all”.
Khan could find himself going head-to-head with other Muslim candidates in the London mayoral contest next year, depending on party selection. Conservative MEP Syed Kamall is also hoping to be selected to run to represent the city, in which almost half of all Muslims in England reside.
Follow Oliver Lane on Twitter: Follow @Oliver_Lane or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org