We are less than three months away from London’s Mayoral election to be held on 5th May 2016 and it should come as no surprise that the front runner, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, is being targeted by the right-wing press.
Earlier today, the London Evening Standard, published an article ostensibly about Sadiq Khan headlined “Exposed: Sadiq Khan’s family links to extremist organisation”. What it actually exposed was the Evening Standard’s determination to smear Sadiq in much the same way it systematically campaigned a few years back against Ken Livingstone to make way for the right-leaning Boris Johnson.
Today’s story focuses on Sadiq’s former brother-in-law, Makbool Javaid (he was previously married to Sadiq’s sister, Farhat), who like Sadiq is also a lawyer by training. The Evening Standard tries to highlight Makbool Javaid as a hate-spewing extremist and hopes that at least some of the dirt that it throws will conveniently land on Sadiq Khan.
As it happens I have met Makbool on several occasions and there is no question that back in the 1990’s he was known to be sympathetic to the views of al-Muhajiroun (Omar Bakri’s band of loony Khilafah-seeking activists). It is also true that by the time I met him again a decade later he had already very clearly begun to moderate his views.
It is only much lower down the Evening Standard article that they actually get round to quoting Makbool Javaid’s current and far more sensible views where he says:
“Of course I regret the speech I gave and some of the things I said and did in my younger years.
“Twenty years ago I was naive. I certainly didn’t realise how easily some of my actions could be interpreted as being critical of Britain — the best country in the world.
“This was nearly two decades ago now and I have grown and changed. I love Britain, I love the rich diversity of London and I love our culture.”
That sounds very much like the Makbool Javaid that I last met a few years ago.
The story of Sadiq Khan should be an immensely inspirational one. The son of a London bus driver, he lived in a council flat in South London and indeed was sleeping in a bunk bed until he was 24. He went to university and trained as a lawyer and became a human rights campaigner. And then in 2005 he was elected as the MP for Tooting, his hometown. Now, just over ten years later, he has a very good chance of becoming Mayor of the UK’s most influential city. It is a fabulous story that serves to highlight the very best of Britain. The opportunity, the hard work, the anti-discrimination and the ever reducing number of glass ceilings. It is a narrative that deserves to be trumpeted loudly, especially to younger Muslims, to help encourage them and to counter the skewed negative propaganda of nihilist outfits like ISIS.
The London Evening Standard did all Londoners a massive disservice today.