Mayor of London Pushed to Slam Trump

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Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, compared President Trump’s rhetoric to that of the Islamic State in an interview about the president and Islam.

However, the interview was more notable for how badly the interviewer wanted Khan to slam the U.S. president in the strongest possible terms, while Khan tried to deliver nuanced answers.

Mehdi Hasan, interviewing Khan for The Intercept, sums up the complete misunderstanding causing so much hatred and anger in the debate over Islamism:

“Trump, of course, has his own ‘simplistic’ approach to the problem of political violence perpetrated by groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda: He dismisses it all as ‘“radical Islamic terrorism.’ How does Khan feel when he hears Islam being blamed for acts of terror and barbarism?”

Hasan, of course, has missed the point. Pinpointing radical Islamic terrorism as the problem isn’t blaming Islam. It’s isolating how terrorist violence is motivated by a radical political ideology based on a specific interpretation of Islam. That’s not the same thing at all as blaming the entire religion.

Khan, on the other hand, is sensitive to the nuance. He tells Hasan that it’s a “statistical fact” many terror attacks are committed by Muslims “using Islam, or using their interpretation of Islam, to justify those acts.”

He adds: “That’s not to say that Islam is responsible, but their interpretation of Islam is used as a motivation. I’m not saying that you and I are responsible because we’re Muslims, or you and I should apologize for what’s going on. I do think, though, we can be more effective in explaining … what true Islam is.”

Khan went on to talk about the importance of rhetoric, but in relatively measured terms.

“We are in danger of amplifying the narrative that Daesh/so-called ISIS have about a ‘clash of civilizations,’ ‘the West hates us,’ by some of the language that Donald Trump has used. He is, if you like, repeating what so-called ISIS/Daesh are saying: ‘The West and Islam are irreconcilable.’ ‘You can’t be a proud American and a proud Muslim.’

“One of the things that so-called ISIS/Daesh want is for an increase of Islamophobic attacks; they want a backlash against proud Muslims, proud Westerners,” Khan adds. “They want Muslims to be the victims of Islamophobic attacks so they start believing the false narrative that ‘the West hates us’ and ‘it’s not possible to be a law-abiding Muslim and a law-abiding Brit or American.’”

It is in this regard, Khan says, that Trump’s rhetoric is “very similar to the rhetoric used by so-called ISIS/Daesh.”

As an example, he talks about Trump retweeting Britain First, a far-right anti-Muslim group. Clarion Project also called out Trump for retweeting Britain First, for the same reason.

At the time we quoted Muslim Activist Shireen Qudosi, who vocally supported Trump during the election, as saying: “Tweets like this coming from our president only reinforce accusations against him of nationalism and Muslim hate.”

“Britain First dehumanizes through nationalism and race in the same way religious extremists dehumanize through theology,” Qudosi added. “It is that much harder for Muslims to fight organizations like CAIR and Muslim fanaticism across the world when the U.S. president is pushing far-right, anti-Muslim propaganda videos.”

Pushing the argument that all Muslims are terrorists and it’s impossible to be a Muslim and a proud American or Brit is only going to further the alienation and division that ISIS thrives on. As Khan notes, ISIS want to increase anti-Muslim attacks so they can gain recruits by leveraging hate crimes to stoke grievances. This is, of course, Clarion Project’s position. 

Despite Hasan pushing him to be condemnatory, Khan tries to remain diplomatic. He talks about Britain’s “American cousins,” and several times talks about how it’s possible to be a proud Muslim and a proud Brit.

One gets the feeling that Hasan, on the other hand, is spoiling for a fight.

“Got that? The president of the United States talks like ISIS, according to the mayor of London,” he writes, breathlessly.

Journalism like this is only going to alienate people and reinforce the idea that Muslims are under siege. The only people that helps are extremists.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.