Labour’s Sadiq Khan is the first Mayor of London who is a Muslim. But also campaign showed that his religious belief was used against him as he was accused that he has links to extremists. Now many people hail his election as possible tool of fighting extremism. So what does his election mean for British society in your opinion? And maybe even broader as it is still very rare for such high profile European politician being a Muslim. Read few comments.
Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham
I think this is an important step for the UK and does send the sort of message that will undermine extremism. One of the main selling points of groups like Islamic State is that Muslims don’t belong in the West. That they aren’t welcomed. That they are excluded. This election result completely undermines that message. It also stands as an example of tolerance in the face of growing nativism across Europe and really speaks to the success of the British model of multiculturalism in contrast to the secular integrationist pressures applied in countries such as France and Belgium.
Imran Awan, Deputy Director, The Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University
The election of Sadiq Khan is a pivotal moment in British politics. Sadiq had been unfairly targeted throughout the campaign and lazy assumptions that he was an extremist. This process now means that people must reconsider the extremism label as it can have undue impact on people’s lives. What this shows is that Islamophobia with politics remains a problem and more work must be done to tackle it.
Adrian Guelke, Emeritus Professor, Institute for the Study of Conflict, Transformation and Social Justice, Queen’s University of Belfast
I am some distance from London, but was there for a conference a few weeks ago. There was more discussion on the upcoming referendum on EU membership than the mayoral election among my London friends. What the polls suggest is that London (in contrast to other parts of southern England) is overwhelmingly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. The Conservative campaign trying to smear the Khan by linking him to extremism didn’t work – basically because there was enough exposure to the candidate for it not to be in the least credible. In short, the Conservative campaign depended on ignorance of the candidate to have any chance of success. There are now recriminations in the Conservative Party over who was responsible for the campaign as it was widely seen as not in keeping with the character of the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, who, to his credit, appeared uncomfortable with the approach of playing up Khan’s religion and thereby indirectly tapping into Islamophobia. This certainly exists in the UK but is weakest in London. Hostility towards immigration is a major factor in support for BREXIT, but here again London is notable for not sharing anti-immigrant attitudes, hence in part why London is so strongly in favour of staying in the EU.
Fahid Qurashi, Lecturer in Criminology, Canterbury Christ Church University
On the face of it Sadiq Khan’s election as the next mayor of London is an unmitigated success story. He is the first Muslim mayor of London and also the first Muslim to be elected as mayor of a major western city. As such his success should send a strong signal to wider society about the presence of Muslims in Britain and Europe. However, some will continue to see Sadiq Khan through the lens of racism and Islamophobia as a ‘threat’, and if that is the case, then Sadiq Khan needs to bear some responsibility for it as he played on and reinforced problematic narratives about Muslims in Britain. For example, he claimed to be alarmed at the number of Muslim women wearing niqabs in London, and he was generally supportive of an Islamophobic story by The Sun which reported that 1 in 5 Muslims in Britain were sympathetic to those who went to fight for ISIS in Syria (The Sun was later forced to admit that this story was ‘significantly misleading’). All of this means that I remain sceptical about the potential for a progressive politics during Sadiq Khan’s reign as mayor of London. He is first and foremost a politician. He just happens to be a Muslim.