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Thursday, May 5th, 2016. It was a day for the history books, marking a political milestone in the western world. That day, British voters elected Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim and the son of Pakistani immigrants to serve as mayor of London. Khan is the first Muslim mayor of a major western capital city.
As the rest of Europe struggles with the rise of anti-immigration parties, fueled by rising public fears following the Brussels and Paris attacks, Khan’s 1.3 million-vote-victory sends a strong and important message, a message highlighting the tolerant and multicultural face of London, as well as triumph over the racial and religious tensions that have plagued other European capitals.
This is not to say the mayor elections lacked controversy. Khan’s opponent, Zac Goldsmith, did not hesitate to run a smear campaign, repeatedly attacking Khan for “giving oxygen, sharing platforms and giving apologies for people who have extreme views.”
In spite of these attacks, Khan won by a large margin. In a city where Muslims make up 12% of the population, this means non-Muslims voted in masses for him. His voters weren’t blinded by political smears. He won because of his policies and platform, not his faith. That’s the way it should be.
In Khan’s acceptance speech, he touched on the controversy, but added, “I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear,” and that “the politics of fear are not welcome in our city…Thank you to every single Londoner for making the impossible, possible today.”
This election gives Muslims confidence that they are truly accepted in London. It symbolizes a piece of hope for the future, serving as an example for the rest of the western political world to follow. While Khan’s victory has political significance, the cultural significance for young Muslims not only in Britain, but across the Western world, is equally remarkable.
A leader of humble origins who is proud of his heritage and proves that a Muslim background is compatible in the Western world? That is an inspiration for young Muslims in the West. For all Muslims reading this, don’t hold back. Vote. Run for office. You have a voice and a place. Show the world that fear-mongering will not be tolerated.
If you want change, bring it.
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