The Arab world can learn many lessons from Sadiq Khan’s victory

Abdel-Bari-AtwanAbdel Bari Atwan is the editor of Rai al-Youm. You can follow him on Twitter here

Prominent Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says Sadiq Khan’s values advocate high standards of tolerance, co-existence and forbearance, and the abolishing of all forms of racism and sectarianism. If the Arab world could but listen and follow his example!

Yesterday’s article in Rai al-Youm – whose headline asked “What if Sadiq Khan, London’s new mayor and the son of immigrants, had been born in the Gulf?” – provoked a record number of responses from readers.

More than 100,000 comments expressed a variety of responses: there were those who admired the values of equality and the availability of opportunities in the West that had allowed Mr Khan to flourish; there were brothers and sisters from the Gulf who were annoyed that we had criticized their countries which discriminate against foreign workers and allow them no rights of citizenship, public health or education; and others considered the West to be the land of the “infidels” and “atheists.”

We do not dispute the fact that there are some Arabs from other countries in the Gulf who have made good, becoming billionaires and seeing their grandchildren take ministerial posts; but we are not talking about the elite few, we are talking about the general lack of justice and fairness for immigrant workers and urge the Gulf states to reform their legislation to offer more equality to these hardworking people from abroad who seek only to earn an honest day’s wages in exchange for their labour and deserve respect and hospitality.

Arab racism

We Arabs need to face up the fact that we are often odiously racist – even to other Arabs from other countries and other creeds, let alone people from the Indian subcontinent or Africa.

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How many sneering glances have been cast on immigrant workers in the Arab world? How little care is given to the living conditions such workers endure? Who minds if they have no passport, no rights and are paid a pittance? And yet, on a personal level, how dear to our hearts are the values of politeness, generosity and hospitality.

Isn’t it time for a change?

South Asian foreign labourers are badly treated in The Gulf
South Asian foreign labourers are badly treated in The Gulf

Even while millions of Arabs and Muslims were celebrating the victory of their co-religionist in London, some newspapers and websites started to ask, “Ah, but is he Sunni or Shia?.” And, having become convinced that he is Shia (he’s Sunni by the way) then began insinuating that he’s a Zionist, an atheist and God knows what else…

An even while we are in full racist or sectarian flow, we bristle at every hint of Islamophobia and rage against Donald Trump who wants to prevent Muslims from entering America.

Who is more racist and extreme?

We are sympathetic to Muslim refugees, provided they go to Europe, and not to our countries, especially the rich ones, even though the Syrian people are known for their tolerance, hard work, creativity and beauty.

Isn’t it strange that the Arab States which have welcomed Syrian refugees are the poorest, without a single barrel of oil in them, countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan who have shared their last morsel of bread with these unfortunate victims of war?

Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan did not win the Mayoral election because he is Pakistani or Muslim, but because he is the person best qualified for the job. He says he is “British, Asian and Muslim”; his aim is to serve all Londoners regardless of colour, creed or race, and to give something back to the city which gave him the right to education and healthcare, which assures him of a legal entitlement to equality with spotlessly white Prime Minister David Cameron.

We are sure that Sadiq Khan will be a fierce fighter against racism, sectarianism and Islamophobia. One of the first comments he made on winning the election was that if Donald Trump becomes President in America, he would be prevented from entering the United States because of his religion!

This bus driver’s son from a council estate has become the most powerful Muslim politician in Europe – let this be a message to all racists and sectarians who would like to drive humanity into the gutter and drown us there in blood.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan blew up the theory of the “Clash of Civilizations” and stated categorically, “I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage… and I am against extremism in all its forms.”

His plans for London are summed up thus on his website: “I want all Londoners to have the same opportunities that our city gave me: a home they can afford, a high-skilled job with decent pay, an affordable and modern transport system and a safe, clean and healthy environment.”

The most important point of focus in his project is how to make London a city of ethnic and religious tolerance, where everyone can co-exist and prosper away from any kind of fanaticism.

Mayor Sadiq Khan will exemplify the moral standards of Islam and has already shown that he is not one to insult or slander his opponents. The same could not be said for the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, who suggested he was virtually a member of ISIS.

One may disagree with some of Sadiq Khan’s political positions, but that does not preclude respecting his experience and undoubted abilities. When you rise above the snares of sectarianism and racism, when you cherish the values of tolerance, co-existence, social justice and equality you (and I mean much of the Arab world here) will start to emerge from backwardness, taking the first faltering steps towards development and progress.

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