Sadiq Khan’s victory in the London mayoral contest raises a big, awkward question: where are all the Islamophobes?
Where’s that seething mob of Muslim-haters that the liberal media have been warning us about for 20 years now? Where is that ‘dread and dislike of Muslims’ the Runnymede Trust fearmongered about in 1997? Whatever happened to ‘Britain’s new disease – fear of Islam’, which the Independent tub-thumped about a few years back? Where’s the ‘rising scourge of anti-Muslim hatred’?
‘We’ve underestimated the scale of Islamophobia’, experts said; apparently, ‘we are today no closer to tackling anti-Muslim hatred’, they claimed, just months ago. Yet now, in the capital city of this apparently Islamophobic nation, this diseased country, a Muslim has just won the largest direct political mandate in British history. Khan – or just Sadiq, as he’s affectionately known by most Brits – got 1,310,143 votes, beating the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith, who got 994,614 votes.
Sadiq’s win isn’t only a blow to the Tories, and maybe a bit of a worry for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, if the Khan-v-Corbyn stories are to be believed. More fundamentally, more brilliantly, it explodes the propaganda of the Islamophobia industry. It shatters the claim that Brits have a weird, racialised problem with Muslims, which has been made for more than a decade everywhere from the Guardian to those endless studies of our allegedly warped attitudes. It suggests that if there is any swirling, irrational fear in modern Britain, it isn’t among ordinary people who are in a panic about Muslims – it’s among the media and political set, who are in a panic about ordinary people and their allegedly foul, prejudiced ways.
As we watch Sadiq beaming from our TV screens and newspapers, riding on a wave of London support, it’s worth reminding ourselves what has been said about Islamophobia in recent years. It has become ‘socially acceptable’ to despise Muslims, said the Tory peer Lady Warsi. The hatred for Muslims is ‘reminiscent of the gathering storms of anti-Semitism in the first decades of the last century’, said former Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob. In short, we’re becoming like Nazi Germany, except with Muslims rather than Jews on the receiving end of our spite. Try to imagine a Jew being elected mayor of Berlin in the 1930s; yet a Muslim has just been elected mayor of London.