Mehdi Hasan writes: As the votes in London’s mayoral election were being counted on May 5, almost every British Muslim I know seemed to have only one thought: Would Sadiq Khan pull it off?
He did. Mr. Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was elected as the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital city, with more than 1.3 million votes, in what is being called the biggest mandate in the history of British politics. And the Labour candidate managed his landslide even after his opponent, the Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith, smeared him as a “radical” and shamelessly accused him of giving “oxygen” to extremists.
Islamophobes are tearing their hair out as they decry the Islamization of Britain. But for all the Muslim baiting, London’s new mayor is part of an encouraging trend. He’s just the latest in a series of observant Muslims who have captured the hearts and minds of the British public. Last October, 14.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the smiling, hijab-clad Nadiya Hussain, the daughter of a waiter from Bangladesh, as she was crowned champion of “The Great British Bake Off,” a TV show. In April, Riyad Mahrez, who was born in Paris to an Algerian father and a Moroccan mother, was awarded the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year trophy after scoring 17 goals for Leicester City, which went on to a surprise victory in the Premier League championship.
In a perfect world, the faith of a TV cooking show star, an athlete or even a major politician would be irrelevant. But in our deeply imperfect — and, yes, Islamophobic — world, it isn’t. British newspapers are filled with alarmist headlines about “Muslim sex grooming” and “the rise in Muslim birthrate.” Earlier this year, Trevor Philips, the former chairman of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, accused Britain’s Muslims of “becoming a nation within a nation.”
It’s harder to say that now. The tide is turning in the toxic debate on Islam, integration and multiculturalism. [Continue reading…]