Sadiq Khan’s election as London Mayor can teach Malaysia about inclusivity

Sadiq Khan swearing-in ceremony in a Christian cathedral in the presence of multi-faith communities also shows how the acceptance of historical realities can help in promoting peace, observes Ronald Benjamin.

It has been a great joy to hear about the election of Sadiq Khan as the first Muslim mayor of London.

The majority of Londoners who could have seen, felt or experience the train bombing on 7 July 2005 perpetrated by Muslim extremists did not succumb to fear-mongering, but have shown maturity in selecting the best candidate base on vision and merit.

The tendency to make sweeping generalisations about Muslims as perpetrators and supporters of terrorism did not hold water among a cosmopolitan and educated electorate.

What was interesting was that Sadiq Khan chose to have his swearing-in ceremony at a Christian cathedral, reflecting his intention to represent every single community as a mayor for all Londoners.

The words of the mayor, the cathedral and the multi-faith communities who participated in the ceremony have a significant meaning as it depicts historical truths and shows inclusivity, which could be a model for Malaysia.

Europe today, even though secularised, is not able to erase its Christian roots and identity. This was evident in Mayor Sadiq Khan’s choice of having his swearing-in ceremony at the Christian cathedral. His message in the cathedral – that he represents all communities – shows the inclusive nature of European Christianity.

The presence of a multi-faith community at the ceremony shows that diversity and pluralism is not the enemy of faith. It also shows that credible religious faith is not built on an irrational fear of The Other but with confidence in one’s own faith and in solidarity with other human persons who do not share the same beliefs.

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Even though Sadiq Khan is Muslim, his upbringing is rooted in an inclusive European Christian culture, which is acceptable to all communities in London.

It is time for Malay-Muslim politicians who are engrossed in promoting ethno-religious superiority to learn from Muslims like Sadiq Khan and Londoners about what it means to be inclusive in a multi-ethnic community. A sense of ethno-religious dominance does not represent the essence of religion.

For non-Muslim communities in Malaysia, it is vital to understand the Malay-Muslim roots of this nation to have a better understanding of why an Islamic identity is important for the Malay community in this country. It is only by understanding history, the evolution of a nation and its symbols that communities can understand why things are the way they are.

Peace and tranquility could emerge from such an understanding. This is where dialogue is vital in bridging gaps of disunity among communities. It is hoped that policy makers, politicians and Malaysians as a whole can rise and go beyond the ethno-centric politics of fear and embrace diversity.

The election of the first Muslim mayor in London and his swearing-in ceremony in a Christian cathedral in the presence of multi-faith communities shows how the acceptance of historical realities can help in achieving peace and prosperity.

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