SAN FRANCISCO — It is not often that a Muslim woman feels good about what is going on around her, particularly when it comes to her Muslim faith. Islam is on the hot seat. The word Muslim stirs up all kinds of unkind associations in the minds of the public. Muslims cannot be trusted. Muslims are the trouble makers….. They have destabilized the world and even worse, we are often dehumanized. It’s a tough time to be a Muslim in the world today while continuing to adhere to your faith.
Recently, Donald Trump has legitimized Islamaphobia and digs into the political scene, swinging the pendulum back and forth quite ferociously. He makes slanderous comments on Islam and Muslims, many of which are inappropriate and reprehensible. How does one respond and where does one turn in the face of insults and falsehoods about one’s faith being flung at you? For most people, religion is a private domain and should stay that way, but, with politicians like Trump, holding onto the privacy of one’s religion is a tall challenge. Trump believes that he can say whatever he wants whenever he wants and thinks nothing of offending people of other faiths. Religion is typically very personal and really needs to stay in that realm — rather than being attacked inappropriately by politicians.
But Trump is not the only newly minted superstar in the political heavens. There is also Sadiq Khan, the newly elected mayor of London.
Khan, one of seven siblings in a Pakistani immigrant family in London, grew up in public housing, and proceeded to be a human rights lawyer and government minister. He won 1.3 million votes in his recent election “unsurpassed by any politician in British history.”
And get this, how does a lawyer and the son of a London bus driver see his success? “This victory is not about me,” says Khan modestly. “It’s about the millions of Londoners whose lives we can improve by building more affordable homes, freezing fares, restoring community policing and cleaning up our toxic air.”
Despite attempts to thwart his inclusive campaign, Khan prevailed in his mayoral election and describes himself as the anti-Trump candidate. Roger Cohen writes in his New York Times column: “Sadiq Khan railed against Islamist extremism and stood tall on the horizon even as he defended openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation and opportunity for all against racism and misogyny.”
Khan campaigned as a Londoner, a European, and a Brit. He goes on to say, “I’m a man of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad and a husband.”
Once elected, Khan immediately turned to his priority mission: quenching “the politics of fear, which are not welcome in London.” He acknowledges that the hard work begins now and “commits to making London even better for all Londoners.”
Khan, like Trump was branded as a new breed of candidate. His conservative opponent tried to demonize him and tie him to extremists — but the London voters rejected the smear. This is a game changer — not only for Britain but also broadly speaking for South Asians residing in England. Khan’s election in London is a vital marker and belies the fact that “terrorist acts hide a million quiet success stories among European Muslim communities.”
Perhaps you can sense why Khan is my new hero. He is smart, cautious and effective. He clearly understands the challenges he will face, and he will undoubtedly address them with a thoughtful lens. I am truly excited about him being the new mayor of London, and I particularly appreciate his priorities, which veer towards enabling people to work, to strive, and to fully live their lives. I like his approach to making life more comfortable for his people above all. I have faith in Khan, and I doubt that he will let us down.
Looking backward and forward, he envisages a London as he experienced it growing up — which provided opportunities for education, growth and development. But he worries that while his children don’t face the raw racial discrimination he grew up with, they also live in a London so stressed by inequality and unaffordability that he is not certain that the next generation of immigrant families can achieve what his parents were able to do.
The contrast with Trump — well, it’s hard to overstate it.
Trump says: “I have learned to listen and trust my gut. It’s one of my most valued counselors.”
Well, what does his gut tell him (since he clearly doesn’t look at facts)? It told him that immigrants from Mexico were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” It suggests to him that three-year-old refugees from the Islamic State in Syria were themselves a security threat to the United States and needed to be sent back at the border. His gut provided him with the astonishing assertion that “27-35 percent of the world’s Muslims are ready to go to war with the United States — that would be 500 million people!”
He also stated recently, “We must as a nation be more unpredictable.” That’s one campaign promise he probably would deliver on.
Cohen, the columnist, ends on a reassuring note when he writes: “Sadiq Khan’s victory is reassuring, because he represents currents in the world — towards global identity and integration — that will prove stronger over time than the tribalism and nativism of the ever unpredictable Donald Trump.”
But, in case you have friends who need persuading, I thought I would provide this little voter guide for anyone wanting to know whether this century’s politics should emulate Trump or Khan. Enjoy.
Second generation immigrant, father a bus driver.
Third generation immigrant, father left him $900 million.
Married for 22 years; two children.
Married to current wife for 11 years; five children; two previous marriages; frequent public affairs.
Campaigning hard to keep Britain a member of the European Union.
Major campaign plank is a $6 billion wall on the Mexican border.
Wants a London that works for everyone.
Would deport 3 percent of the U.S. population.
Began term by investigating funding irregularities in public projects.
Received an unprecedented number of 4 Pinocchio ratings for lying.
“None of your business.”
(This story was originally published on Khadijah’s Daughters, Shahnaz Chinoy Taplin’s blog focused on Muslim women, their issues, challenges and opportunities, and is reprinted here with permission from the author. The Indian American writer is the chair of Invest in Muslim Women.)