Sadiq Khan is the first Muslim mayor of London. His election is a milestone in UK politics that may well equal that of the first female Prime Minister. Like the Iron Lady, he was brought up by a working class family, if in somewhat humbler beginnings than hers. The Khans are Sunni-Pakistani immigrants to Tooting, and he is a shining example of the generational progression through education, integration and a combination of family and self-initiative.
No stranger to politics, Khan has been an active politician in his constituency since 2005, drifting in from his studies and career in law. Not only is his rise through the ranks significant to the UK, but he is the first Muslim mayor in any major Western capital.
London has always been a vibrant hub of different cultures. So it is nothing out of the blue, but still in spite of agitprop and an Islamophobic and scurrilous campaign by his opposition. As a Muslim, Khan deliberately sets up against the naysayers by using his experiences to defeat radicalisation and extremism. He hopes that his victories will inspire more Muslims to enter mainstream politics.
As Khan keeps emphasising, “there is no clash of civilisations between Islam and the West.”
Even most recently, he has managed to rise above the controversy of being declared by Donald Trump as an exception to the proposed blanket ban on Muslims into the United States. Khan simply diverted the attention and underlined that the issue is about more than him.
What intrigues me is that as a Labour politician he harks back to the party origins, claiming to not be in the pocket of big business or the financial side of London.
We will have to watch closely how he balances his background with the tensions of a populace from varied cultural origins. His depiction in the media will have a significant impact on the perception of him as a politician as well as of Sunni Muslims in general.
However, I reserve judgement till later in his elective term, as I do not wanna jump the gun, like I did with Blair, and receive kickback. Just look at how Tony Blair was elected in a wind of fresh hope that easily became a storm of backtracking on promises and poorly executed policies.
What I am hoping for in Germany, is that the media picks up their interest a little more on this seminal period in UK politics, and moves beyond the pages and airtime devoted to Brexit. Khan happens to be like me, pro-EU, believing that Brexit will be catastrophic for the city, and that remaining guarantees access to a 500 million strong EU market.
Both Brexit and Khan’s mayorship could be game changers, and the latter a force for an alternative perception of people of faith in a diverse global capital.