On May 5, 2016, Labour Party candidate Sadiq Khan became the first Muslim to be elected mayor of London. This event sparked a wave of mostly enthusiastic responses worldwide, particularly in the Arab world. The London-based online newspaper Rai Al-Youm dampened the enthusiasm and even hinted at the Arab states' hypocrisy in rejoicing over Khan's election when they themselves deny the very values, such as equality, human rights and the rule of law, that enabled him, as the son of immigrants, to attain this status. The editorial also argued that the Arab states were guilty of racism and of persecuting and repressing minority citizens, and that they denied immigrants like Khan's father many rights - meaning that Khan could never have attained what he did these countries. It should be noted that the Arab press published additional articles in this vein.
Sadiq Khan (Raialyoum.com, May 7, 2016)
Following are excerpts from the editorial:
"The celebrations in the Arab countries of Dr. Sadiq Khan's win in the London mayoral elections, which began Friday night, haven't stopped. Khan is a Muslim, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, and he grew up for the most part in the public housing that the government provides to the needy.
"Many have not grasped the significance of the win of this young man, who climbed from the bottom to the very top, in a journey rife with suffering and with diligent efforts in a capitalist society and a non-Islamic multicultural environment.
"In our view, the secret [of his success] lies in equality, the rule of law, and the absence of racism - and even more so in the fight against it, and its uprooting - and in full respect for human rights, the most prominent of which is social justice. [Also contributing to his success] is the respect for all manner of liberties, chiefly freedom of expression...
"All of these values and fundamental principles are nonexistent in the vast majority of our Arab and Islamic countries. That is why their sons await the first opportunity to emigrate, searching for a good life far from persecution, oppression, and racism, where they can find a welcoming environment that offers them opportunities for success and creativity.
"Let us imagine - had Sadiq Khan's father 'gotten lucky' and immigrated to an Arab country, or, specifically a Gulf state, because these [states] are home to millions of Indian and Pakistani immigrants - what would this Pakistani immigrant's situation have been, and what future would he have?
"First, he would have been subject to the authority of a guardian; this guardian would, immediately upon his arrival [in a Gulf state], have confiscated his passport and locked it away in a safe. He would have had to find a private Indian or Pakistani school for his children, because they are not allowed to attend government schools. Had one of his children fallen ill, he would have had to seek private medical care, because they are also banned from most government hospitals. And if they did go to these hospitals, they would have been insulted and humiliated, and given second-rate medicine - not the top-quality medicine that is reserved solely for the state's children.
"It would have been only natural for Sadiq Khan's father to reside in a Gulf state for 40 years and more without obtaining permanent residency for either himself or his children, let alone citizenship, not to mention political rights and the right to vote in elections. Mr. Khan's [fate] would have been like that of millions of other Arabs, Muslim or Christian, Shi'ite or Sunni, as well as of millions of other immigrants from around the world.
"The Western societies have developed, and have attained the economic, political, and military might that they have attained, because they fought racism in all its forms, and because they gave [all] their citizens equality in the eyes of the law, and equal employment opportunities regardless of religion, origin, or color.
"Those celebrating Mr. Khan's victory - which he earned through his struggle, and through his own achievements, and because he got into [key] political and social institutions thanks to his scholastic excellence - especially [those celebrating it] in the Arab media, should not focus on meaningless [issues]. By reveling in the fact that he is a Muslim - and not in the fact that he came from a poor and humble family, and that he was given this opportunity by equality and by [genuine] communal life, they are expressing racism.
"Sadiq Khan will enter history through the same door as U.S. President Barack Obama... and we must always remember that this is all thanks to equality and the rule of law. We, as Arabs currently undergoing the worst forms of racial and ethnic incitement among members of our same Islamic faith, have a long way to go before we attain the values and fundamental principles that are specifically demanded by our religion.
A cartoon shows Sadiq Khan's probable future had his father immigrated to an Arab country. The Arabic reads: Policeman: "Not a word - [hand over] your driver's license, your passport and your residency permit." (Image: Al-Ghad, Jordan, May 8, 2016)