The news of Sadiq Khan winning the mayoral race in London spread like wildfire in Muslim circles. WhatsApp groups, Twitter, Facebook, texts and emails were full of surprise and pride. In a time of rising Islamophobia in the western world this news was welcome validation that Islamophobia can be overcome.
But, what does being the Muslim mayor of a city of eight million people mean?
In addition to all the pressures and expectations of his constituents; millions, if not, billions of Muslims around the world expect him to successfully carry the added burden of convincing the world that Muslims can be mainstream and open-minded.
The same expectation or hope occurred with President Barack Obama’s ascension to the presidency. Many saw the election of a black man to the highest office of the United States as a sign that the worst years of racism were behind us.
In fact, his presidency was a wake-up call to those pockets of racist and terrified groups who realize their era as the majority in this country is disappearing. Donald Trump feeds this fear with his vile words against Muslims, Hispanics, and women. He knows these groups exist and he turned their disgust, discontent and disappointment into votes. What was once inconceivable is now a chilling reality: Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for the President of the United States.
How is it that we are going from President Barack Obama to a possible presidency of Donald Trump? Fear, plain and simple.
The good that Sadiq’s win does for those with the different names, skin colors and religions is more valuable than the ugliness it can bring to the world. It shows us that if he can do it maybe we can to. That has to be worth all the racism, fear and violence that these political victories bring out in our society. It’s a terrifying compromise. Many African-American and other minority communities are inspired by the Obamas living in the White House these last eight years, motivating them to aim higher, remain resilient, and believe that their dream is also possible.
Will the same hold true for Sadiq Khan in London? We will be keenly observing his term, which will inspire hope and incite fear simultaneously. He will carry that added burden while breaking barriers for those who will follow behind him. The road is grueling and grim for those in front. So, while his victory is a success, the journey is far from over.
Najiyah Khan is an Assistant Editor at altMuslimah. She became an election cycle enthusiast while working on Al Gore’s presidential campaign; this led her on a path to Capitol Hill and the United Nations. Najiyah now studies the intersection of politics and security.
Photo Credit: The Economist