London's New Muslim Mayor Makes Waves during First Days in Office
  • Thu, 05/12/2016
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12 May 2016

Sadiq Khan just recently made history as the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital.

He has been making more history during his first few days in office.

He has put pressure on American republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to retreat from his proposal to ban Muslim foreginers from entering the United States.

Trump, who proposed the controversial ban in November in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terror attacks, said, "there will always be exceptions," pointing to the first Muslim mayor of a European capital as one of them, saying he was "happy" to see Khan win.

Mr. Khan replied that as mayor of London, he does not wish to be an exception to Trump's blanket ban on Muslims. He added that he is planning to visit the US this year before the new president is sworn in, "in case Donald Trump wins."

Mr. Khan says that he wants to consult other mayors for lessons, including New York City’s Bill de Blasio, but given Mr. Trump’s stance toward Muslim visitors, he said, “It may be advisable to go to America before January.”

Mr. Khan said on Wednesday that many Muslims in Britain wanted to visit Disneyland, invest in America, see family and friends. “I’ve been impressed,” he said, “by the ignorance of the man who could be the Republican presidential nominee.”

He added that his election in the face of a divisive campaign highlighting his religion is a lesson to Donald J. Trump that Islam is perfectly compatible with Western values.

Mr. Trump is “playing into the hands of extremists” and is “ignorant about Islam,” Mr. Khan said. “Daesh, ISIS, all those guys, hate the fact that I am mayor of London. Why? Because it contradicts what they say, which is that Western liberal values are incompatible with Islam.”

In a briefing at City Hall and then an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Khan, a member of the Labour Party, said that his Conservative opponent, Zac Goldsmith, “chose a Donald Trump approach and their campaign sought to sow divisions.” But London, he said, “chose unity over division, and a rejection of the politics of fear,” something that he suggested should encourage Hillary Clinton, the probable Democratic candidate for president.

“What we have shown, and I hope it’s a lesson that Hillary and others in America take on board, is hope trumps fear,” he said, adding: “Forgive the pun.”

The London mayor went further and promised to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in November’s presidential election — insisting the race for the White House was now “personal.”

He added that he would “love” to see a Clinton victory because he could not imagine a better role model for his 14-year-old and 16-year-old daughters.

In another historic move, Mr. Khan agreed on Wednesday to erect a statue of a suffragette in central London, which will be the first statue in Parliament Square to honour a woman.

The news comes after a campaign by feminist activist Caroline-Criado Perez and Telegraph Women, which launched on Monday this week. More than 70,000 people signed a petition, asking for a statue of a suffragette to be placed in Parliament Square by 2018 – a century after women got the vote.

Currently, there are 11 statues outside Parliament Square, all of which are men.

Criado-Perez published an open letter in Telegraph Women this week, signed by a group of powerful women – including Emma Watson, Naomi Harris and Sandi Toksvig –as well as MPs, businesswoman and baronesses.

It called on Khan to honour his promise to be a “proud feminist” in City Hall, by placing a statue of a woman outside the Houses of Parliament.

Khan responded by releasing a statement, agreeing to "explore a suitable site for the statue".

Criado-Perez, who successfully campaigned to get Jane Austen on the new £10 note in 2014, was looking forward to seeing suffragette statue outside the home of one of the world’s oldest democracies:
"I'm absolutely delighted that Sadiq Khan has taken the time to respond to our petition in his first few days in office. It sends out a great message about the kind of Mayor he intends to be. However, I hope in the days to come he will commit to the Parliament Square location specifically (planning permitting), because of its historical and symbolic significance, and because the central issue is that all of the statues there are men".


The new mayor has also taken a firm stance against anti-semitism, to the extent of calling out leading members of his own party for their comments about Jewish people.

His criticism was directed at the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for doing too little to speak out against anti-Semitism in the far left of the party.
“I’ve been the victim of hate crime because of my ethnicity and my faith,” he said. “If somebody is saying views that are appalling, disgusting and clearly anti-Semitic, I’ve got to call it out. The fact that that person happens to be from my party, the fact that the leader of my party is failing to call it out, that’s irrelevant. I have to call it out.”
Mr. Khan attended a Holocaust remembrance event in one of his first acts as the city’s leader. A day after his landmark win on Saturday, Khan attended a Holocaust commemoration with more than 150 survivors and tweeted in a post shared more than 1,000 times: “At Yom HaShoah commemorations today. So important to reflect, remember and educate about the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust.”

The new mayor has taken a strong stance in supporting Britain's continued membership in the European Union.

It is also vital for London that Britons vote on June 23 to remain in the European Union, he said, given the many thousands of jobs dependent on financial services. His position on the vote stands in sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Boris Johnson, a Conservative who is a leader of the campaign to leave the union.

The new mayor does not deny that Islamic radicalism is a real issue inthe UK. He said he recognized there was a problem with Islamic radicalism at home and the ability of young people to become radicalized “in your bedroom via the Internet.”

“Something is going wrong,” he said. “We have got a problem with people who are born and raised in Western cities, Western countries, but who are radicalized and turned into violent extremists.” More attention should be paid to giving people a “sense of belonging,” promoting role models and constructing programs, for example, to de-radicalize people in prison.

As mayor of London, Mr. Khan has to focus on the city's problems. London’s real estate and rental prices among the highest in Europe, and working people are increasingly being priced out of the city. As a consequence he said that his highest priorities as mayour are creating cheaper housing and supporting affordable mass transit.

Sources:

"Trump says proposed ban on Muslims was 'only a suggestion' – as it happened" May 12, 2016

Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle, "Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim Mayor, Calls Trump ‘Ignorant About Islam’" The New York Times May 11, 2016

"Victory! Mayor of London Sadiq Khan agrees to suffragette statue " The Telegraph UK May 11, 2016

Jack Moore, "LONDON’S MUSLIM MAYOR TARGETED WITH ANTI-SEMITIC TWEETS AFTER ATTENDING HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION" Newsweek May 10, 2016

Tom McTague,"Sadiq Khan vows to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump" Politico May 12, 2016