SHAFAQNA – It’s official Sadiq Khan is the new Mayor of London … If we are to listen to mainstream media, his appointment holds a true mirror to Britain’s tolerance and multiculturalism tradition – an affirmation of sorts that Muslims are not fact social or religious pariahs, but true Britons!
he appointment of a new mayor of London was always going to be a historic moment, but the announcement that it would be Sadiq Khan – the first Muslim to take on the job – had even more significance.
Here is what the Guardian had to say about Mr Khan – “It is a victory that, according to Khan himself, sends a strong message to all “the haters in Iraq and in Syria”, showing that the city is a beacon of tolerance and respect.”
Here is my question: Why are we to assume that Mr Khan’s election necessarily means anything for the Muslim community? Is it because he happens to identify as a Muslim?
Let me put it this way, when Mr David Cameron was elected prime minister did we make a big deal out of his faith? Did the press hail his rise through the echelons of politics a victory for Christianity and the values it represents? Did we automatically assume that Britain would immediately see rise churches and bible study centres? Why not you may ask? Quite simply because a politician’s faith hardly has anything to do with his, or her ability to perform well in office. Faith does not dictate one’s policies … faith, although an important part of any individual’s identity does not determine one’s character.
Assuming that Mr Khan’s Muslimness will translate in some sort of positive bias towards the Muslim community equates to a rather pathetic form of religious nepotism. Muslims are not calling for preferential treatment … what they are calling for is tolerance and social inclusion.
Who cares what Mr Khan is or isn’t! Who cares if he is a Muslim, or an atheist?! Such issues should not matter … such issues most definitely do not deserve press airtime.
Still mainstream media are telling you, the public, how wonderfully stronger Britain, and London stand to be now that a minority sits in the Mayor office. To drum the argument home, the Guardian published reactions from the public.
“Navid Akhtar, 48, London: I hope this will reaffirm that Muslims are no different to anyone else
Ali Jaffery, 58, Cardiff: I hope that Khan will improve race relations
Zainab Kidwai: It shows that there is still trust among world citizens in Islam.
Suhaib Qazi, 31, London: From a purely Muslim perspective, I would like to see him tackle the rising level of Islamophobia that we have seen in recent times, particularly on public transport where mainly women have been targeted. There is a huge sense of fear among Muslim women now, particularly those wearing hijab/niqab and so it needs to be addressed.
While I will not presume on Mr Khan’s policies since he has yet to roll them out, I very much doubt that his first order of the day will have anything to do with Muslim, or the rise of Islamophobia in the UK. Let us remember that to win in politics one needs to be a member of the Establishment, and play by the rule of the Establishment.
I would like to think that the Muslim community needs not a political champion to fight its battles. Muslims I hope have realised by now that the solution to xenophobia and sectarianism lie actually within all of us – our ability to project a positive image of Islam by living Islam’s principles.
Religious-centrism is a dangerous road indeed … If we are, as Muslims to expect social integration, we might want to begin by addressing our own subconscious bias. We are victims only if we choose to be. Racism and tolerance can and will stop with us if we practice ourselves tolerance and inclusion.
Change begins with us … not with a politician whose ambitions are for himself, and not the religious community everyone thinks he represents.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna