LONDON: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that former cricket star and PTI Chairman Imran Khan should explain why he openly supported Zac Goldsmith during the recent bitter London mayoral election campaign, which saw the former winning the biggest ever personal mandate in British political history.
In his first exclusive interview to any Pakistani and South Asian media outlet on Thursday, Sadiq Khan told Imran Khan’s open endorsement for Zac Goldsmith came as a surprise to him.
The London mayor said: “Imran Khan should explain why he supported Zac Goldsmith. When I was little, Imran Khan was my hero. He used to be one of the best all-rounders – 1982 and 1987 series were very good, then the world cup in 1992. It is sad [that he supported Zac] but this is for IK to answer and not me.”
Sadiq Khan, the Labour victor and former cabinet minister under Tony Blair, outstripped Boris Johnson’s 2008 record to win a landslide 1,310,143 votes in his race to be Mayor of London, beating his Tory rival Zac Goldsmith by nearly half a million votes.
The toxic election campaign saw Zac Goldsmith branding Sadiq Khan an ‘extremist, terrorist sympathiser, unsafe, closet radical and a threat to Britain’s national security.’ Zac Goldsmith’s attack on sadiq Khan was so racist and Islamophobic that former Tory cabinet minister and party leader Sayeeda Warsi openly condemned Zac Goldsmith.
Sadiq Khan told this scribe that it was unfortunate that Zac Goldsmith failed on all policies and tried to scare off voters by telling that Sadiq Khan is of Pakistani origin and Muslim therefore he shouldn’t be trusted.
Sadiq Khan said that he has multiple identities and he’s proud of all his identities including his Pakistani origin and Muslim faith.
“Currently, Pakistan’s reputation is not so good. My opponents said to people that I come from Pakistan, that I’m a Muslim. The interesting thing is that I admitted all this myself: Yes! I am from Pakistan. Yes! I’m a Muslim – but I have policies, values ideas to be the best mayor. And I’ll be a mayor for all of London, whether the people are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs or Hindus, Buddhists or atheists, I’ll still be your mayor.”
Sadiq Khan accepted that the fight for the second most important job in Britain was very tough. He said that his parents taught him how to fight for values and be strong in face of odds. He said he couldn’t be where he is today if it was not for the values instilled in him by his parents.
“My background and my values come from my parents. They originate from Pakistan and they’re a source of pride for me. I always source back to my religion, Islam. If you can help others, you can. Don’t be arrogant, don’t be vain. If you get an opportunity, then explain to people what type of a country Pakistan is, and what type of a religion Islam is. This was my thinking. I am proud of who I am and I have every reason to take pride in my being and my values.”
Sadiq Khan said that he was supported by people of all faiths and people of no faith. “My victory is everyone’s victory. The support I received in the shape of campaigning, finance and prayers was absolutely fantastic. And we showed the world that London is the best city in the world,” he added.
Sadiq Khan told Geo News that he was aware that his victory was celebrated across Pakistan and people prayed for his victory and held celebrations when he was declared a victor.
“I received messages from friends and supporters about the pride that was felt in Pakistan. My parents, grandparents are from Pakistan, my family is still there so I feel proud, I feel humbled, and this is a responsibility to show London that a man from an Islamic background and Pakistani heritage can help business, can build the homes, can fix the transport.”
Sadiq Khan said that Tory election campaign was negative and counter-productive and it was clear that the Lonodoners rejected their message of division and hatred.
“The Conservative campaign was extremely negative, divisive and desperate. People were doubted about whether it is possible for London to choose a mayor and have security around other issues. The support we received was fantastic. The biggest ever turnout in election, the biggest vote to the winning candidate and we’ve shown the world that we’re the best city in the world. And I thank all your viewers (of Geo News) for the best wishes after elections. I received lots of messages after May 5. I am deeply thankful to all those people. I am very busy at the moment and I can’t thank everyone in person but I know their sentiments and value them.”
Sadiq Khan said that it was a sad fact that the “reputation of our religion Islam is not good these days”. He said many people in the world think that all Muslims are terrorists and extremists. “So if we can show them that we’re peaceful, law-abiding and that we’re capable of keeping everyone safe, then the reputation of Islam will improve.”
Khan has said he is not a Muslim leader, not a spokesperson of Islam and not the representative of Muslims but he had made it clear that he’s a practicing Muslim and observes Ramazan.
He told Geo News that fasting for 19 hours a day in the UK is not an easy task especially when there’s a round the clock job to do at the City Hall but he said that Islam is all about making sacrifices and overcoming the self, for others.
“It is difficult to fast for 19 hours. I engage in a lot of speeches, media, TV and public debating. Fasting is a sacrifice and this is a month of charity. And this is my humility. I know a lot of people in London are hungry. 100,000 people last year used a food bank. So fasting allows me to have solidarity with these hungry, poor people.
“There is a reason fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. If you’re a Muslim, and you can fast, then that’s great. Another positive thing is that non-Muslims are now learning about Islam, about fasting. They ask me “how are you doing this? How is the fasting going?” I think this is a good thing that they’re beginning to understand our religion.”
‘Ignorant Trump needs to understand Islam’
Sadiq Khan condemned US politician Donald Trump for helping extremist groups such as Daesh by announcing a ban on all Muslims from entering the United States.
“Extremists say that western values and Islam is incompatible – that you cannot be a Muslim if you’re western. They’re both different. Donald Trump is saying the same: that you cannot be western if you’re a Muslim. He proposed a ban on Muslims from entering USA. After my victory, he announced that he’d make an exception for Sadiq Khan.
“My answer is this: I am not an exception. Why are you making an exception for me? There are law-abiding Muslims in England and London and Europe and all around the world who want to go America. They’re peaceful, they’re law-abiding. Donald trump is basically doing ISIS’ work for them by preaching their message of either Westernism or Islam.”
The London mayor said that Donald Trump was an ignorant man who needed to broaden his horizons and understanding of Islam.
“I say that Trump is an idiot. He doesn’t understand Islam, and it is our duty to make him understand that this is not what Muslims or Islam is about. And in America there are Americans who are Muslims working and living peacefully.”
Sadiq Khan outlined his plan of dealing with extremism by supporting the police and security agencies in effectively tacking with this menace and by rooting out hate preaching. He said that the biggest worry was that it needed only one terrorist to succeed in his mission of causing mayhem and terror. He said the fact that many young Muslims, including many women, went to Syria from the UK to join ISIS, was a worry and must be dealt with.
“It is a big worry. London is a great city. Intervention has to be more resilient to this preaching of hate. There is a motive to close down those websites that are encouraging people to go astray. There have been moves to closing down certain accounts and stopping things which encourage people to join terror groups. So we have a responsibility to ensure that young people aren’t led down that path.”
Sadiq Khan last week appeared with Prime Minister David Cameron to show support for the “In” campaign which wants UK to stay in the European Union. Only weeks ago the PM had called Sadiq Khan an extremist in the parliament. Observes said that it was Sadiq Khan’s victory and his vindication that the British premier stood next to him and praised him and his election mandate.
Sadiq Khan said he believed that it was in Britain’s interest to stay in the European Union and not leave it.
“We showed on May 5 how hope and fairness can be used to defeat division. Jobs, export market, high street, restaurants, fashion… market of USA, China, Japan. We need to think of consequences and remind people of the downsides. The benefits are huge.”