Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, has won London’s mayoral election yesterday, Friday, making him the first Muslim in history to take the helm of a European Union capital.
Khan, who is a member of the center-left Labour Party, defeated Conservative Zac Goldsmith in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Boris Johnson, who is also a member of the Conservative Party.
“I am so proud that London has chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” Khan said after his victory.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Khan worked as a human rights lawyer before becoming a politician. He was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2005, and later served in several government ministries.
From 2009 to 2010, he served in Gordon Brown’s cabinet as transport minister, the first Muslim to serve in this position.
England’s Muslim population has doubled over the last decade, and as of 2011, 12.4 percent of London’s population practiced Islam. Like many European cities, London has struggled with rising Islamophobia in recent years.
Racial tensions also crept into the mayoral race. In April, the Muslim Association of Britain accused Goldsmith’s campaign of sinking to “disturbing lows “ by distributing pamphlets critics said were aimed at exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment. Prime Minister David Cameron, who is the leader of the Conservative Party, also drew criticism for accusing Khan of having ties to an imam who Cameron alleged supported the Islamic State. Goldsmith himself offered similar sentiments, accusing Khan of giving “platform, oxygen and cover to people who are extremists.”
Khan fired back at the comments, describing them as “horrible desperate stuff from a Tory campaign that is clearly losing.” [myad]