Despite the best efforts of his opponents to smear his campaign with prejudice and scaremongering, Sadiq Khan managed to win the mayoral election two weeks ago. I was watching the polling results online with eager anticipation that day, feeling the butterflies in my stomach. Slowly, as the day wore on, I came to the incredible realisation that he had actually done it –Sadiq Khan actually won. Khan, who grew up on a council estate, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, and a Muslim by faith – had been elected mayor of one of the most powerful cities in the Western world. As a British Pakistani Muslim myself, this was an incredibly momentous occasion for me.
To be completely honest, before the elections I was afraid. While there was a general consensus that the Labour candidate Khan would be the front-runner, some of the anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric from opposition parties made me feel incredibly nervous and unwelcome in my own country. The overwhelming support for Khan really reassured me about how people in London really feel and that they prioritise policies and politics over race and religion. It is something that I could have never even imagined as a bright eyed seventeen-year-old beginning to study the British political system.
Sadiq Khan has fought his campaign with integrity, even in the face of outrageous defamation by his opposition Zac Goldsmith and Prime Minister David Cameron. To have such influential figures claim that Khan is linked to religious extremists is downright dirty politics. This is the kind of behaviour that feeds the general perception of fear of Islam and it contributes to increasing Islamophobia in the UK. And unfortunately, this is normally the message of the British media. Despite opposing efforts, Khan came out victorious with 1.3 million votes, winning the largest mandate any London Mayor has received to date.
The announcement of the results on Friday was met with outrage from right wing groups, but this has led to some hilariously witty one liners from the Twittersphere. #Londonhasfallen began to emerge as a hateful hashtag, but it was met with a very apt response from Sadiq supporters.
Following Khan’s victory, Donald Trump was asked whether he would relax his proposed ban on Muslims for the newly elected London Mayor. Trump’s response was to say that Khan would be an exception to the rule. Khan’s incredulous reply emphasised how such a policy played into the hands of religious extremists and that it risked alienating Muslims from all over the world. In his own words: “Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam – London has proved him wrong.”
Although Khan has succeeded in his bid for Mayor, he now has a lot to prove to those who voted for him as well as to those who opposed his campaign. It is yet to be seen whether he can truly live up to his promise to be a Mayor for all Londoners.
But for now, I continue to be overjoyed by his electoral success and I am endlessly hopeful for the future of the city I am proud to call home.