06 May 2016

London's new mayor

London -- the capital of the United Kingdom and the most important city in western Europe -- has just elected its first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan.

This is significant for two reasons.  First, Khan exemplifies the high degree of assimilation which is increasingly typical of western European Muslims, despite the disproportionate media attention given to the minority of violent religious fanatics.  He was born and grew up in London (his parents were immigrants from Pakistan) and worked as a lawyer before going into politics.  As an MP (Member of Parliament) in 2013, he voted in favor of the legalization of gay marriage in the UK -- in response to which an Imâm in Bradford issued a fatwa declaring Khan no longer a Muslim.  Prominent among the issues on which he campaigned were London's housing shortage and the cost of public transport.  Despite some shameful attempts by the Conservative party to brand him an extremist, Khan clearly has nothing of the stench of Salafism or Sharî'ah law about him.  He is, like the overwhelming majority of British people, secular.

Second, Khan's election shows that the general British public is not as hostile to people of immigrant origins as we are sometimes led to believe.  Offensive fanatical behavior by a few, up to and including outright terrorism, remains a problem and is obviously intolerable -- but most voters, at least in the cosmopolitan capital city, are clearly able to distinguish the obnoxious minority from the assimilated majority who, aside from their ancestry, are not much different from the rest of the country's general population.  This is important, because assimilation has to work from both directions -- one cannot expect Europeans to accept a minority which rejects the mainstream culture's fundamental values, nor can one expect the minority to assimilate if they find themselves rejected even when they do so.

Like the election of Barack Obama as President of the US, Khan's election is an encouraging sign that prejudice and intergroup hostility are, while far from dead, growing weaker than the best of us feared and the worst of us hoped.

[Image at top:  Sadiq Khan and wife Saadiya Ahmed, also a lawyer.]

3 Comments:

Anonymous NickM said...

I would not personally regard Khan's victory in the same terms as Obama's. Yes, we are very tolerant over here in England. S who runs the local corner shop flogs porn despite being a practicing Muslim. No hassles there. His son imports stuff from Pakistan. My wife bought a hand bag imported by his son from Pakistan (where the family pitched-up from) at the Christmas Market. Yes, BNP supporters... My English-born, white, wife bought a hand bag (cue any number of Oscar Wildeisms) from the son of a Pakistani at a village Christmas Market.

S does siddle up to me... Mainly for the porpoises of selling me Midget Gems and/or Dr Who magazines. That is something up with which I can put. He is small businessman (I know the feeling) and he knows my wants. Obviously. Been going down there for 8 years.

07 May, 2016 18:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

No analogy is perfect, but I think it's something of an indicator of how things are going. If you have "practicing" Muslims selling porn and Dr. Who magazines, they are slowly but surely becoming English, just like earlier waves of immigrants such as the Normans and the Dutch who were brought in 300 years ago to help drain the Fenlands (the latter probably being among my own ancestors).

07 May, 2016 18:23  
Anonymous NickM said...

Well, they are definitely English. S's wife speaks with a strong Mancunian accent for example. The kids complain about having to go to the mosque but in much the same way Christian kids complain about Sunday school - I'd rather play footie in the park.

What annoys me is that I have lived my entire adult life (from 19 - I am now 42) in pretty much multicultural areas which includes Mr Khan's stamping ground of Tower Hamlets way and seen little ethnic/religious strife. It seems to me that the progenitors of this issue (to the extent it exists are people who have never really met "the other".

08 May, 2016 05:16  

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