London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Mayor Sadiq Khan remains confident that his city will continue to thrive in the aftermath of the British referendum on the European Union last Friday.
“We’ll still have the most talented people in the world, we’ll still have creativity, we’ll still have innovation,” the mayor said to The Jerusalem Post, arguing that the city will not change in the face of a result in which London was the only region in England to vote remain in the EU by a 60% majority.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted at an interfaith event held by Finchley Reform Synagogue in north London in collaboration with the Somali Bravenese Welfare Association, the mayor of London discussed his dedication to boosting interfaith relations, the Brexit phenomenon gripping the country, and whether he could see himself as the first leader of an independent nation of London.
Discussing the fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the EU, Khan was frank with regard to his how he felt about the result, having campaigned vehemently for the UK to remain.
“I’m disappointed. I’m a passionate European and I think the European Union has brought huge benefits to London and our country,” he said, praising the “economic, social, cultural and security benefits” that he felt it provided.
Khan emphasized the growing importance of London as a player within the negotiations that await David Cameron’s successor as prime minister, the individual who it assumed will be at the helm of the Brexit process.
“They [must] remember that London is crucial for our country.
We’re a powerhouse for it”, suggesting ultimately that “we [London] need a seat around the negotiating table to make sure our interests are taken into account.”
Regarding interfaith relations, a topic on which Khan has received significant praise – at the event tonight he was coming together with the Somali Bravanese community to break his Ramadan fast at an Ifar meal hosted by Finchley Reform Synagogue for the third year in a row – Khan was unequivocal that despite the relative tolerance of London, complacency could not be allowed to set in.
“We’ve got to make sure that we understand how we’ve managed to get on so well… it’s people taking risks if you like, getting to know my neighbor,” he said, pointing towards the example of how Finchley Reform Synagogue and the Somali Bravenese Welfare Association had reached out to one another after the latter’s community center burned down as the result of an arson attack in 2013.
Citing London as a bastion of cohesion in times of terrorism, Khan took pride in pointing out what he saw as the unity that emerged during the city’s darkest times. “When there is a terrorist attack around the world and the perpetrator justifies this terrorist attack in the name of Islam, you get Muslims, Christians, and Jews in London saying, “Look, we know Islam, those people aren’t the Muslims I know, Islam isn’t a religion of terrorism”.
Pressed on the point that Jews in London could begin to feel scared by the growing reports of xenophobic attacks against eastern Europeans and ethnic minorities that had been reported across London and the rest of the UK in the aftermath of the referendum vote, the mayor was emphatic in his understanding of Jewish concerns.
“Jewish communities historically have always been the first to be attacked. There’s a reason why our Jewish friends feel vulnerable, so we can’t allow a ‘small thing’ to snowball into a ‘big thing.’ We’ve got to stamp out the ‘small things’, whether it is name calling or whether it is graffiti, because if you don’t’ stamp it out there, it escalates into violence.”
Before the end of the interview, the Post asked Khan whether, in the face of growing divides in the UK that see the likelihood of an independent Scotland even greater, he could see himself as the first elected Prime Minister of the State of London. His humorous yet serious response was to note that “although it’s lovely people are already calling me ‘El Presidente,’ what’s important is that the government understands that London’s got unique needs.”
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