‘I am not a Muslim leader, I speak for the city of London’

Updated - September 12, 2016 12:36 pm IST

Published - May 11, 2016 10:41 pm IST - LONDON:

The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on Wednesday revealed that his grandparents were originally from Uttar Pradesh and migrated to Pakistan. His parents migrated to the U.K. “I am a third generation Khan, and am not going anywhere,” he said.

Looking relaxed and dapper in a blue suit and open collar shirt, Mr. Khan took questions from a select group of journalists representing the foreign media at the City Hall-the Mayor’s imposing office overlooking the Thames.

The new Mayor said he looked forward to visiting India where he has “lots to learn from successful city administrations” and the “exciting stuff happening in Delhi and Mumbai”.

Praise for Sheila Dikshit

He was all praise for former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for her initiatives in improving the public transport system by “dealing with air quality, getting rid of diesel… and using innovation to solve problems.”

Mr. Khan envisions cooperation among the mayors of cities across the world through sharing experiences for making cities more energy-efficient, especially in the transport sector. “There are many ideas I have of using entrepreneurship from India to solve problems that many cities around the world face,” he said.

It is not just his politics but also his style that contrasts with that of his predecessor Boris Johnson. Mr. Khan has an understated sense of humour, and answers questions with modesty and forethought.

Reflecting on his campaign, Mr. Khan expressed pride in his city for rejecting the “Donald Trump approach” of his opponent Zac Goldsmith, who “sought to sow divisions among communities in the most diverse and great city in the world”.

Mr. Khan emphasised that his election did not make him a “Muslim” leader. “I am not a Muslim leader or a Muslim spokesperson. I speak for the city of London.” However, he agreed that in the current climate he has “a responsibility to remind people that mainstream Islam is compatible with western liberal values”.

The next few weeks will see his engagement in the campaign to remain in the European Union. “More than half a million jobs in London are directly dependent on us being part of the EU, and 60 per cent of the world’s leading companies have head offices in London.” Mr. Khan said he would be campaigning on the issue – “more important than party politics” – with a conservative party prime minister.

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