Sadiq Khan – mayor of London and role model for Muslims
The election of a son of a Pakistani migrant is proof that educated voters are mindful of the need for inclusivity and representative governance
The rhetoric against Muslims and migration in Western capitals gives an impression that tolerance is the last thing on citizens’ minds. Yet the people of London have chosen a man of Islamic faith, the son of a Pakistani migrant, to be their mayor. Further, Sadiq Khan is a minority from a working-class background in a city outsiders mostly associate with Caucasian, high-rolling, financiers. His election is proof that educated voters are mindful of the need for inclusivity and representative governance.
Khan, 45, from the opposition Labour Party and a lawyer, is the first Muslim to be elected mayor of a major European city. Although a leading financial capital, London has a diverse population of 8.6 million, being 45 per cent white British, but another 35 per cent were born overseas.
Of them, just 12.5 per cent identify themselves as following Islam, making his election all that more surprising. What role race and religion played in his win cannot be accurately gauged, although his victory was substantial; he gained 56.8 per cent of votes cast, 13.6 percentage points more than his conservative rival, Zac Goldsmith.
The campaign was not without incident, Goldsmith having attempted to link Khan to Muslim extremism. As a one-time human rights lawyer and a former member of parliament and cabinet minister, there were bound to be photographs circulating of him standing near people with wide-ranging beliefs. Khan countered such claims by pledging to take on extremism in all forms. As a Londoner, European, Muslim, husband, father and Liverpool Football Club supporter, he is well qualified for such a challenge.
Khan has no easy job as mayor of so important a city. He has big plans to make housing more affordable, increase job prospects, reduce crime and improve transport. But his election win has significance for more than Londoners; the world’s Muslims, the vast majority moderate and peace-loving, are looking to him to be a role model. If he can do that, he will do his religion, as well as the people of his great city, proud.