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London’s First Muslim Mayor Is Neoliberal Who Will Likely Blunt Social Progress

The London mayoral victory of Sadiq Khan, a former human rights attorney and member of the Labour Party, meant a devastating defeat for Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith. It was the son of a Pakistani bus driver against the son of a billionaire financier, with Khan bringing Goldsmith’s troubled mayoral campaign to an abrupt end, thanks to a lead that nearly crossed 15 percent.

What this arguably surprising victory means for people of color and Muslims, beyond what it adds to visibility, is still up in the air. However, Khan’s own statements raise many questions as to what kind of mayorship is in store for these communities.

Khan is now heralded as “the first Muslim mayor of London.” He is one of eight children born in south London to Pakistani immigrants. His mother was a seamstress, and his father was a bus driver. The role his humble background played in shaping his politics and the voice of his political campaigns cannot be understated.

In April, while Khan was still running for Mayor of London he told the Evening Standard that women, who are born and raised in Britain are choosing to wear the jilbab or niqab, and that leads him to question “what is going on in those homes.” Though he argued it is not his “place” to tell women what they should wear, his remarks echoed a widely accepted belief that something sinister may be happening in Muslim households, leading women to choose to dress in religious attire.

Khan indicated in the same interview that, while he recognizes there are people struggling to make ends meet (some of whom work two to three jobs just to pay rent), he likes the fact that there are 140 billionaires and 400,000 millionaires in London, which has a population of at least 8.6 million, because this symbolizes “diversity.” The view of economic disparity as being anything less than objectionable is unparalleled absurdity. The exploitation of the working class is furthered by the concentration of capital. The view of economic inequality as being simply a part of “diversity” strikes at the heart of why Khan will most certainly become an obstacle rather than an ally to the working class.

Soon after his mayoral victory, Khan took aim at what he alleges to be a divisive attitude by the Labour Party and went after Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the Party’s outreach tactics, which he says should include engaging with Tory voters. He stood firmly against Labour’s local election posters that called for “taking sides,” arguing that the Party should “unite people from all backgrounds as a broad and welcoming tent.”

The poster in question that set off Khan’s response read, “Elections are about taking sides. Labour is on yours.” Khan’s message of inclusivity is similar to the mainstream Democratic strategy of wanting to expand the tent and pull in voters, despite ideological differences. This message, which arguably sounds absolutely charming, is fanciful double-talk that is meant more to undermine Corbyn’s platform as Labour Leader and set in stone the divide between them, than it is to appeal to those who have not voted Labour.

Additionally, in the wake of Sadiq Khan’s victory lap, none other than Hillary Clinton offered her message of congratulations:

Clinton has done her own fair share of inclusivity double-talk, and as recently as last week. In the hopes of gaining support from Republican party leaders and voters, Clinton has begun to fine tune her rhetoric to appeal to conservatives. She’s already raking in support from prominent Republicans, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In a recent interview with CNN, Hillary Clinton invited independents and Republicans to join the Democrats: “Let’s get off the red or the blue team. Let’s get on the American team.” According to the New York Times the Clinton campaign “expects to assemble a ‘Republicans for Hillary’ group.”

Beyond calling for unity, there is little these politicians have proposed that demonstrates how unity is to be applied. Whether it is Khan or Clinton, the idea that in order for progress to occur one has to open up their tents to those who are undoubtedly opposed to a great number of fundamental issues—just so that politicians may perform unity for an audience—shows the problem with this ideology of unity. The proposition that we need to band together neglects what is to come after.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at