It’s like he could be bro of mine – British-born 45-year-old son of Pakistani immigrants who originally migrated from India during the 47 partition and came to the UK to work hard in search of a better life for themselves and their children. And now he’s the Mayor of London!
Though I’ve been a resident of Dubai for just over a decade now, London is still my home town and I’m really proud of that great city today for voting in Sadiq Khan as the new Mayor. Growing up there in the 70s, even as a child I remember regularly experiencing racist abuse from a culture then highly-influenced by the extreme right-wing National Front movement at the time.
We Asians kept a low profile and tried to blend in as much as our obviously different skin tone would allow – which was not that much at all! It wasn’t until the late 80s and early 90s that British Asians really started to assert their identity and culture. Most of which I sadly missed as my youth was spent growing up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
But the first time I experienced an Asian Mela during a trip back to London where desis where openly wearing Shalwar Kamizes, eating kebab rolls and dancing to Bhangra bands Dholling it up Loud and Proud on stage in a public park, I was utterly gobsmacked. Times were changing, and changing fast.
Of course then bloody 9-11 happened and it seemed multi-culturalism and religious tolerance took a terrible step back into the dark ages from whence there is still no hint of a real recovery. If anything Muslims in particular continue to be painted as the planet’s evil bogeymen. We are the new Evil Empire, without an empire.
So I never ever expected to see a Desi Dude – particularly of a Muslim background – to rise up the UK political ranks like Sadiq Khan has done. As the brand-new freshly-elected London Mayor from the Labour Party, he is only the third ever Mayor of that great city, and follows on from the extremely colourful Conservative Boris Johnson.
And he didn’t just scrape through – he has been elected with 56.8% of first and second preference votes. And with more than 1.3 million votes, Khan achieved the biggest personal mandate of any politician in UK history, and the third largest personal mandate in Europe. Not bad for the son of a Bus Driver growing up on a council estate. Wow – has the Oxbridge clique-hold on British politics finally been broken?
And this after a controversial campaign in which his extremely wealthy main rival employed Donald Trump-like tactics to scare away people from voting for the Khan – even suggesting he had links with extremist and terrorism. Well done London – America, sit up and pay attention!
Nonetheless, it’s sad that most headlines this morning are focussing on him being the ‘first MUSLIM Mayor’ of London, rather than what he actually is – the first British ASIAN Mayor of London (after all if it had been a black brother, the headlines would have read ‘First BLACK Mayor’.
CNN in particular lead its story with the extremely disappointing: ‘Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim…’ as if ‘practicing’ immediately confirms that he must be the next Osama Binladen in the making.
Now I really don’t know much about him, I haven’t really been following British politics of late much. But clearly Khan certainly is a Muslim. As am I. But over 99.9% of us Muslims are – shock and surprise! – NOT actually extremists or terrorists.
And yes, obviously as a prominent member of the Muslim community he has been involved in religious issues. In fact, according to his Wiki entry, he was awarded the ‘Newcomer of the Year Award’ at the 2005 Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards ‘for the tough-mindedness and clarity with which he has spoken about the very difficult issues of Islamic terror’.
Again according to his Wiki, in 2009 he won the Jenny Jeger Award for his writing ‘Fairness not Favours: How to re-connect with British Muslims’.
And in 2013 an idiotic imam of a Bradford mosque actually issued a fatwa against him, as no longer being a Muslim, after Khan voted in favour of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill for which he also received death threats. I mean for goodness sakes, look at him – he doesn’t even have a beard or a turban!
So I do hope the detractors can look past their own blighted short-sightedness and for once emerge from their narrow-mindedness to accept a wonderful new reality where our skin colours and religious beliefs do not stop us from achieving greatness and doing good for the greater community.
This is a profoundly historical and significant moment in British politics, let’s not sully it through misplaced prejudices. I’m really surprised but delighted and proud of the Khan, and I do hope that he is the perfect helmsman to guide the amazing city of London to even greater standing on the world stage. London has proved today that it deserves it.