05/09/2016, 15.47
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With London’s new mayor countering Islamophobia, will Pakistan respects its minorities?

by Kamran Chaudhry

Sadiq Khan was elected mayor with 57 per cent of the vote. His Labour Party defeated the conservative challenger with 1.3 million votes. The new mayor is a Muslim of Pakistani origin. His family immigrated to London in the 1960s. He was able to go to university thanks to a scholarship. In Pakistan, Christians and Muslims say he will bring justice and harmony in one of the most multi-ethnic cities in the world.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – In Pakistan, some Muslims and Christians believe that Sadiq Khan, London’s new Lord Mayor, a Muslim, will counter the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. They spoke to AsiaNews to express their opinion about the election of the 45-year-old lawyer of Pakistani origin.

British Labour party's Sadiq Khan won on 5 May with 57 per cent of the vote. Now many believe that the moderate Muslim’s electoral success will help restore a positive image of Islam and Pakistan. Many of the attackers in 2005 London bombings were of Pakistani origin.

Leaders in Pakistan’s minority communities note that in their country, they are not allowed to occupy any of the highest offices of the land, and that politicians in the South Asian country could “learn about democracy” from London’s mayor.

Sadiq Khan, who defeated his main Conservative challenger Zac Goldsmith, won more than 1.3 million votes. He comes from a poor family that left Pakistan and settled in London in the 1960s, where his father worked as a bus driver for 25 years and his mother a seamstress.

The fifth of eight children, he studied law at the University of North London thanks to scholarships. Later he specialized in human rights and took on lawsuits against police violence, job discrimination, and prisoners’ rights.

“This is a great news for us,” said Pakistan Ulema Council Chairperson Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi. “This is an example of a society free of any prejudice. The positive development will discourage those who discriminate against Muslims living in the West. Such elements will be discouraged”.

In a sign of inclusiveness and democracy, Mr Khan chose to sign in as London Mayor at Southwark Cathedral. He later attended the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony in Barnet, a London borough.

For Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Grand Imam of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Khan’s success will help in building a good image of Muslims as well as Pakistan.

“Indeed our people are happy,” he told AsiaNews. “A person of Pakistani background is leading one of the world’s most populous city. This will help in solving the problem of harsh rhetoric about Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace and condemns terrorism”.

Khan’s victory also sparked reactions among Pakistan’s minorities. Under the country’s constitution, only Muslims can be president. In 2010, the National Assembly passed the 18th amendment to the constitution, which bans non-Muslims from the post of prime minister.

In view of this, Father James Channan, regional coordinator of the United Religions Initiative-Pakistan, called for the repeal of discriminatory laws.

“Our constitution must open posts for all Pakistanis irrespective of their religion,” he said. London’s election “can help in building a true democratic and civil society in Pakistan,” as well as “bring justice, peace and harmony”.

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