London elects its first Muslim mayor and the journalism world rightly notes its importance

If you keep up with international news at all, you should know by now that London has a uniquely newsworthy new mayor, a Sunni Muslim of Pakistani heritage. Its a first.

But on the chance you don't, let me introduce you to Sadiq Khan, a second-generation Brit.

His connections to Islam are strong but clearly on the social liberal side. He supports same-sex marriage and has questioned the wearing of face coverings by Muslim women in public situations.

The mainstream international media has welcomed his election as proof positive that Muslims can, just as members of any non-Western religious or ethnic immigrant group, embrace Western-style democratic politics.

Khan's victory last week makes him the West's highest-profile Muslim politician, which means he'll be under a media microscope for the foreseeable future. Here's a selection of international media reports on Khan's election pulled together by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Further spiking interest in Khan's election is the strong effort he made to reach out to London's Jewish voters. That's all the more noteworthy because he is a member of the UK's leftwing Labour Party, which has been wracked of late by the purging from its ranks of some 50 leading members -- including Khan's predecessor as London mayor -- for making anti-Israel comments understood by their own party to be anti-Semitic.

Khan's first official action as London mayor was to attend a city Holocaust commemoration event. Because London's Jewish voters account for less than 2 percent of the total, Khan's pronounced Jewish outreach may be viewed as a politician's public statement that non-Muslims need not fear that he will engage in the sort of identity politics that have proven so divisive elsewhere in Europe. 

(Almost half of London's voters identify as Christian and more than 12 percent as Muslim. Almost 21 percent say they have no religion. Khan's Conservative Party mayoral opponent, Zac Goldsmith, has Jewish roots via his paternal grandfather, though his and his extended family's current Jewish connections are thin at best.)

For what it's worth, Haaretz, Israel's leading leftwing English-language newspaper, was among those who praised Khan. It ran this piece calling Khan's win a "victory" for inclusive politics. The Jerusalem Post, Israel's leading journal on the right, was far more hesitant, running this editorial that pointedly noted Khan's past associations with questionable Islamists.

Closer to home, The Daily Beast published this opinion piece, written by a liberal British Muslim, that also covered Khan's past associations. The piece insists that while Khan is in no way the Muslim extremist that Goldsmith painted him as during the campaign, Khan's past should not be swept under the rug in the exuberance of his breakthrough victory.

Khan' mayoralty will undoubtedly receive close international media scrutiny. 

Will he live up to liberal media pronouncements and mature into an exemplar of Western Muslim democratic elective politics? Or will he somehow get sucked into the cultural turmoil associated with the UK's and continental Europe's rapidly shifting demographics in some negative manner?

The national American political scene is far different than that of solidly liberal London, but it will be interesting to see if Khan becomes a prime media example on this side of the pond of the possibility and correctness of greater Muslim political inclusion and electability.

Religion journalists: what do Muslims in your locale say about Khan's election?

Do they identify with him? Are they thrilled by it? Do they even know about Khan's new position? This last question may require interviewing non-prominent local Muslims, perhaps those unaffiliated with a mosque where the news is more likely to have circulated.

(More than a few international media reports have already contrasted Khan with presumptive Republican president candidate Donald Trump and the latter's campaign promise to keep foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. Guess which one comes off as the divisive troublemaker in the comparison.)

As with any politician, Khan is bound in due course to disappoint in some areas and be a pleasant surprise in others. His actions are likely to be criticized from the left and right.

However, among the world's Islamists, he's already much more than a disappointment. He's a traitor to Islam worthy of death -- as are those Muslims who support him.

In Karachi, Pakistan, Khurram Zaki, a former journalist and activist, was shot and killed over the weekend by presumed Islamist gunmen riding motorcycles. Zaki's murder came just hours after he praised Khan's election.

Coincidentally, The New York Times ran this piece Sunday about the physical threats faced by American Muslim leaders who make it their business to publicly criticize Islamic terrorists and the beliefs that motivate them.

The silencing of Muslim political opponents by Islamist terrorists is a very real threat, and the UK has no shortage of homegrown Islamist supporters of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

So you can bet that in addition to journalists, London security officials will also be watching Khan with a keen eye.

His time in office should be interesting, to say the least. Stay tuned.

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