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London’s new Muslim mayor foresees Tel Aviv trip

In exclusive interview with UK’s Jewish News, Sadiq Khan says that while some co-religionists and Jews don’t like his outreach, he will build bridges

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of the United Congregations of the Commonwealth poses with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ahead of the Yom HaShoah Commemoration, the UK Jewish community's Holocaust remembrance ceremony, in Barnet, north London, on May 8, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of the United Congregations of the Commonwealth poses with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ahead of the Yom HaShoah Commemoration, the UK Jewish community's Holocaust remembrance ceremony, in Barnet, north London, on May 8, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

New mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the possibility of leading a trade delegation to Israel, and stressed the need to improve relations between Jews and Muslims in London, during an interview with The Times of Israel’s new British partner, the Jewish News.

Khan, the first Muslim to head any Western capital city, made the remarks on the same day as attending a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, his first official engagement since he took office on Saturday.

“I’ve not even had my first Monday at work to be fair, I’ve had six hours sleep since Wednesday. But I’m keen to make sure I’m the most pro-business mayor we’ve ever had and that means going on trade missions including to Tel Aviv,” he said in the Sunday interview.

As for when exactly he would come to Israel, Khan said, “It took him seven years to get there.” He was referring to Boris Johnson, his mayoral predecessor.

Khan said that he recognized that some people in the capital — both Jews and Muslims — will oppose his dedication to tolerance and coexistence.

Newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan addresses the media following his election victory at City Hall in central London on May 7, 2016. (AFP/Leon Neal)
Newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan addresses the media following his election victory at City Hall in central London on May 7, 2016. (AFP/Leon Neal)

“We’ve got to accept there are some people who say they’re Muslim, [and] some people of the Jewish faith, who don’t like the fact I’m here. That I’m sitting next to the chief rabbi,” he said at the Holocaust remembrance ceremony.

“My message to those people is we live in the greatest city in the world and have to go get along. I’m the mayor of London, the most diverse city in the world and I’ll be everyone’s mayor. No preferential treatment but I have a role to build bridges. My signing in ceremony was deliberately designed to show the sort of a mayor I’ll be and I started as I mean to go on,” Khan said.

He added that it was a “privilege” to meet Holocaust survivors.

Britain's new London Mayor Sadiq Khan (C) shakes hands with Holocaust survivor Harry Fleming as he attends the Yom HaShoah Commemoration, the UK Jewish community's Holocaust remembrance ceremony, in Barnet, north London, on May 8, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)
Britain’s new London Mayor Sadiq Khan shakes hands with Holocaust survivor Harry Fleming as he attends the Yom HaShoah Commemoration, the UK Jewish community’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony, in Barnet, north London, on May 8, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

Khan has previously been involved with two groups — the Coexistence Trust and Alif Aleph — that are dedicated to improving Jewish-Muslim relations.

“There are lots of wonderful projects going on,” he said. “There’s so much we can do. One of my criticism of previous mayors is they didn’t understand the power of mayor; it’s not simply the power given to you by parliament, it’s also the pulpit of persuasion and I intend to use the powers I have to change our city for the better.”

Khan also discussed the reent anti-Semitism scandal that has rocked his Labour Party in recent weeks, calling it a “badge of shame.”

Multiple Labour officials across the UK have been suspended for making anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist statements.

Ken Livingstone denounces Israel in a May 4, 2016 interview (Memri screenshot)
Ken Livingstone denounces Israel in a May 4, 2016 interview (Memri screenshot)

London’s last Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, was suspended last month after he claimed that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism. Livingstone has repeated the claim and on Wednesday, the day before Khan was elected, Livingstone declared that the creation of Israel was a great “catastrophe.”

“My family’s life story, from my dad coming in the 1960s — no blacks, no Irish, no dogs — to the city he made home electing his son to be mayor of London, shows the progress we’ve made. I’m optimistic,” Khan said.

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