The London mayoral campaign has been a heated set of campaigns that have focussed on the backgrounds of individuals and on the associations that candidates have had with people whose views have been regarded as ‘repulsive’ and ‘extreme.’ Newspapers have led headlines on associations with extremists and social media activity has suggested that one of the candidates is Islamophobic. Within these charges, the truth has been somewhat lost.
Questioning the links between a candidate and their past associations is legitimate political discourse when someone puts themselves up for a public role such as the mayoral candidate for London. However, framing a candidate who happens to be Muslim just through the lens of extremism at a time when Muslim communities feel that they are trying to counter anti-Muslim tropes, may well have wider and deeper community impacts. This is not to say that questions should not be asked, however, there is much more to Sadiq Khan than his past associations and in the next few weeks, we would urge that the issues be looked, which include transport, housing and the role that London can play as a beacon city globally for financial investment. These are bread and butter issues and Sadiq continues to lay out these plans daily in his campaign. His plans on these bread and butter issues should be engaged with and the continuous focus on whom he associated with ten or more years ago is re-enforcing a view in some quarters, that Muslims as a whole cannot be trusted. This is unacceptable and if anything, may be turning off Muslims who may have considered politics as a future career.
Alternatively, we have seen Twitter campaigners from Labour suggest that Zac Goldmith is Islamophobic. This is a line that has been pushed by a lot of Labour campaigners against the Conservative MP and environmental activist. We have met with and spent time with Zac Goldmith. He is far from being Islamophobic and is reflective and thoughtful and deeply cares about communities. To label him as Islamophobic, undermines the value and the strength of the term and Zac is someone who has spent many years working with faith communities and with Muslim communities. Indeed, he was instrumental in working with the Kingston mosque in tackling the far right who had targeted the mosque and his involvement brought all communities together against far right extremists targeting the local Muslim community. To suggest that Zac Goldsmith is Islamophobic is to suggest that Sadiq Khan may be susceptible to being sympathetic to people with extreme views. Both narratives and suggestions are just obscene.
There are two weeks to go before Londoners go to the poll to elect their London Mayor. In these two weeks, let us focus on the policies of both Zac and Sadiq which can ensure that London remains the great city that it is. Let us vote for the candidate who can further enhance our capital city at an international level and thereby bring in much-needed investment and ensure that housing and transport issues are looked at. That is what we want from a London Mayor and that is what we hope campaigners focus on.