PARIS – “I feel so proud of my city,” my interlocutor says, referring to the election of the first Muslim, Sadiq Khan, as Mayor of London. She is Catholic, though she identifies first and foremost as British. But, like many other Londoners, she was inspired by Khan’s message of hope over fear.
Khan’s election contrasts sharply with dynamics that seem to be at work elsewhere in the West. European populations – in Hungary and Poland, and with a close call in Austria – are falling prey to increasingly radical, openly xenophobic populism. In the United States, Donald Trump’s bombastic bigotry has won him the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Londoners certainly had the option of intolerance. They could have voted for the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, who persistently accused Khan of having ties with “radical Muslims figures.”
The expectation, without reason or evidence, that any Muslim person is linked to extremism is undeniably racist. Leveling such accusations against a Muslim running for public office has nothing to do with protecting the public interest. The purpose of such tactics is to reinforce the notion that no Muslim can be trusted to hold an important leadership position.