London mayor says he'll be voice of city, not just Muslims

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2016 1:11 PM
London mayor says he'll be voice of city, not just Muslims

LONDON (AP) — In the 100 hours since he became London's first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan has tussled with Donald Trump, forged a bond with his Paris counterpart, visited a Holocaust memorial and even given bus riders a break on fares.

Khan has been swept into the whirlwind of being the new leader of this global city — a job that also catapulted him to worldwide recognition because of his faith. But he says what's important is being the voice of this polyglot city, which contains Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists as well as Christians — to name but a few — within its ranks.

"I'm not a Muslim leader or a Muslim spokesperson," he said. "I'm the mayor of London."

Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants and a member of the Labour Party, triumphed despite a Conservative campaign that sought to depict him as being sympathetic to Islamic extremists.

To counter a message of division, Khan offered tolerance and said the opportunities granted to him by Britain — through subsidized housing, school and medical care — helped him to succeed.

Khan still sees that in "the current climate" he has a "responsibility to remind people that mainstream Islam is compatible with western liberal values."

He's also not shy about reminding people that no one thing defines who they are.

But he expressed surprise at what he described as the ignorance of Trump and his advisers, who recently suggested the United States should temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Trump suggested this week that he'd make an exception for Khan.

"The idea of making an exception for me because I'm the mayor of London demonstrates how little they understand about the comments that he's made," he said. "There are business people here in London who want to do business in America, who happen to be of Islamic faith. There are children who want to go to Disneyland. ...they're Londoners, they're British and they're of Islamic faith."

Khan said Trump is "playing into the hands of extremists."

But as a spring downpour cascaded outside the glass-framed building that is London' City Hall, Khan described an administration that would govern a city proud of its diversity.

"Hope does trump fear, if you will forgive the pun," Khan said.

He pledged a vigorous campaign to keep Britain in the European Union — even if it means working closely with a Conservatives. Thousands of jobs are at stake in London. His new friend, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, teased him by saying she'd roll out the red carpet for any companies who might want to re-locate should Britain decide to leave the 28-nation bloc in the June 23 referendum.

He's got a raft of other issues to face, such as London's air quality, but as the son of a bus driver, he decided to start out with a fare break for frequent travel on London's famous red double-deckers. His voice warmed as he described the move, which has already gone into effect.

He also offered some advice for American voters.

"It's worth reminding my friends and cousins in America that actually London had a choice last Thursday. Londoners could have chosen the politics of fear ... they chose not to." he said. "If that's a template for America, I'm really happy to help."