Zac Goldsmith vs. Sadiq Khan

This is a guest post by Zee Lahori

Sadiq Khan has supported the convicted al Qaeda jihadi recruiter and mentor Babar Ahmad in the past. This support has now been raised by the Conservatives three weeks before the London mayoral election. Sadiq Khan has responded by claiming that the Zac Goldsmith campaign is engaging in a form of prejudice by doing this.

This is the wrong approach to take. Sadiq Khan should explain to the electorate why he supported Babar Ahmad, and then explain why he disassociates himself from the ideology he espouses. The Community Security Trust have highlighted why Ahmad and the jihadist beliefs he promotes are so dangerous, and Andrew Gilligan has also pointed to how some liberals in the media are having the wool pulled over their eyes as Ahmad engages on a PR campaign to whitewash his ideology and past.

There is nothing wrong with Sadiq Khan having supported Babar Ahmad if he believed a constituent was suffering an injustice over his extradition to America for his crimes. However, Khan found himself in close association with extremists like CAGE and Hizb ut Tahrir whilst campaigning for his constituent and friend.

It is understandable that Sadiq Khan is sensitive to the accusation that he endorses jihadis. This is clearly not the case. Khan is a democrat. But that must not lead him to dismissing concerns over these issues as being motivated by prejudice. The vast majority of British people are concerned about the growth of jihadi and Islamist supremacist ideology in our society, and suggesting that this is a form of bigotry is simply going to lead to further estrangement of the Left and Labour from the British people.

If a Conservative mayoral candidate had associated with a convicted white supremacist terrorist recruiter and mentor it would rightly be scrutinised. Sadiq Khan must address this issue not by claiming that concern over this is a form of prejudice. He must do so by stating clearly that as a man of principle he supported Babar Ahmad for legal reasons, and that he now condemns Babar Ahamad’s ideology in entirety. Khan has said that he is the British Muslim that will take the fight to the extremists. The problem is that up to date he hasn’t shown himself as taking the fight to an extremist like Babar Ahmad that he was close to in the past.

In Labour Uncut Atul Hatwal wrote in January that Sadiq had to take this approach of disassociation in order to counter the raising of his relationship with Babar Ahmad by the Tories This is clearly the approach to take, and as he aspires to lead all Londoners, Sadiq Khan must not fall into the trap of saying that the legitimate and reasonable concerns of voters of the problem of Islamist extremism and jihadist ideology are a form of prejudice or bigotry. The costs of such an approach could be great for Labour and the Left as it could lead to a spiral of denial and framing of reasonable concerns as prejudice.

The Conservative Party are not wrong to raise this, because it does raise a question about Khan’s judgement, and Sadiq should use this opportunity to answer it and distance himself from Ahmad. Most British people and Londoners know the difference between the vast majority of peaceful and tolerant Muslims, and the minority of extremists who promote extremism. Sadiq must show he understands that the people of London are sophisticated enough to appreciate this, and that their concerns are legitimate, and he shares those concerns.

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