May 13, 2016
The voters of London, which is about one-eighth Muslim, overwhelmingly elected a Muslim last Thursday as their mayor, the first time a Muslim has been elected mayor of a huge Western city.
Sadiq Khan, who was born in London of Pakistani parents, won with a margin of 57 percent, a margin so large that, even if there were no Muslim voters, he would have won.
It was very much a personal victory for Khan and not a victory for his Labor Party, which once dominated in Scotland but was shockingly reduced to third place there while the party also lost small numbers of seats in city council elections across England.
The election was also a rebuke for jihadis in the Middle East who try to recruit Muslims in the West by telling them everyone in Britain, Europe and America hates them. While there is a lot of vocal hatred for Muslims heard in London, the vote shows that “a lot” is not “everyone”—or even a majority.
The only other Western city known to have an elected Muslim mayor is Calgary, Alberta, which elected Naheed Nenshi, 44, as mayor in 2010 and then re-elected him in 2014 by a huge 74 percent. Nenshi was born in Toronto of ethnic Indian parents who had emigrated from Tanzania.
(Rotterdam in the Netherlands also has a Muslim mayor, but mayors in that country are appointed, not elected.)
The campaign in London got nasty with the opposition Conservatives accusing Khan of working with Islamic extremists. That desperate tactic appears to have blown up in their faces, given Khan’s margin of victory. Many Conservatives—including the sister of Zac Goldsmith, the conservative mayoral candidate—expressed disgust with the allegations. The Conservatives—who have held the mayorship the last four years—clearly lost. And so did Islamophobia.
London has seen attacks by Islamic extremists, including the July 2005 suicide bombings in the London Underground and on city buses that killed 52 and an especially gruesome knifing of a solider walking in a street. But the city of 8.6 million people has not seen the level of racial and religious frictions common in many cities on the continent.
Khan, 45, is the son of a bus driver and a seamstress and was raised in what Britons called “council housing” and Americans call public housing. He and his wife—also born in London of Pakistani immigrants—are both lawyers.