Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, on Saturday emerged the first Muslim to be elected mayor of London.
Mr. Khan’s success at the polls is even more remarkable as it came at a period of heightening Islamophobia in Europe.
His victory however underscores the reputation of London as a truly cosmopolitan city.
London is centre for international finance. According to the New York Times, a quarter of its inhabitant are foreign-born and an eight of its population are Muslims.
Mr. Khan, the Labour Party Candidate, won 56.8 percent of vote to beat Zac Goldsmith, the candidate of the Conservative Party, who managed to score only 43.2 percent, effectively ending eight years of Conservative reign in City Hall.
The human rights lawyer, however, is not a newcomer in United Kingdom politics. He was first elected to parliament in 2005 and was the UK transport minister in 2009 under the last Labour administration of Gordon Brown.
Mr. Khan clearly wasn’t oblivious of the questions about his ethnicity and religion that came up during the campaign which he described in his victory speech as “not without controversy.”
He, however, said he was “proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division.”
“I hope that we will never be offered such a stark choice again. Fear does not make us safer, it only make us weaker and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city,” he said, making reference to the widespread Islamophobia in Europe over growing threat of terror attacks.
His closest rival in the poll, Mr. Goldsmith, ran a particularly divisive campaign drawing criticism from even his own party, which described his campaign as “appalling”.
Mr Goldsmith was denounced trying to link Mr Khan to Islamist extremism and for sending letters to voters based on ethnicity, the Independent newspaper wrote.
“Our appalling dog whistle campaign for the #LondonMayor2016 lost us the election, our reputation and credibility on issues of race and religion,” Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairman and the first Muslim woman to attend Cabinet, tweeted Saturday evening even before the official announcement of the result.
Mr. Khan is the fifth of eight children of his Pakistani parents who came to the UK in the 1960s. He was born in Tooting, South London, and has represented his town in parliament.
In 2008 when he was appointed to the Privy Council, a ceremonial body, which required him taking an oath to the Queen, he told The New Statesman he swore on the Koran
“The palace called me and said, ‘What type of Bible do you want to swear on?’ When I said the Quran, they said, ‘We haven’t got one.’ So I took one with me,” he said.