Sadiq Khan has been the Mayor of London since 2016 and is the target of criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump over his reaction to the London terror attacks that killed seven people on June 3. Khan told Londoners that there was “no reason to be alarmed” if they see an increased presence of police in the city, but Trump has repeatedly attacked that statement on Twitter. Khan’s spokesperson responded by saying the Mayor had more important things to do.
Khan is a member of the Labour party and represented Tooting in the House of Commons from 2005 until his election as Mayor in 2016. He also served as Gordon Brown’s Minister of State for Transport from 2009 to 2010. In 2016, Khan was elected with 56.8 percent of the vote, beating Conservative Zac Goldsmith.
The 46-year-old is married to Saadiya Ahmed. They are parents to two daughters, Anisah and Ammarah.
Here’s what you need to know about Khan.
1. Khan Said He Had ‘More Important Things to Do’ Than Respond to Trump’s Tweets
Among Trump’s first tweets about the London terror attacks was a jab at Khan. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed,’” Trump wrote on June 4, just hours after tweeting that the U.K. has the U.S.’ support.
As The BBC noted, Trump was referring to a TV interview Khan gave just after the attack. “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. No reason to be alarmed,” Khan said.
Khan’s office later said that Khan has “more important things to do than respond to Mr Trump” and accused the U.S. president of taking his remarks “out of context.” “The Mayor is busy working with the police, emergency services and the government to co-ordinate the response to this horrific and cowardly terrorist attack and provide leadership and reassurance to Londoners and visitors to our city,” the statement read.
Never one to just move on from a feud, Trump added on June 5, “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement. MSM [Mainstream Media] is working hard to sell it!”
Khan might not have Trump’s support, but he has the support of Prime Minister Theresa May. As Politico notes, May said Monday that Khan is doing a good job and it was “wrong to say anything else.”
Curiously, Khan also has the support of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Lewis Lukens.
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2. Khan Wrote That the ‘Sickening’ Act Has ‘Nothing to Do With the Islam I Know’
As the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city, Khan has found himself in a unique position. He has written an op-ed for the U.K. Independent, stressing that this “sickening” act of terror has “nothing to do with the Islam I know.”
“This is the holiest time of the year for millions of Britain’s Muslims. Ramadan is a period of peace and contemplation for the suffering of others. Followers of a perverse ideology who murder innocent Londoners and visitors are an utter desecration of Ramadan and a rejection of the true values of Islam,” Khan wrote. “Along with the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population, I am disgusted by this act. I want to send a crystal-clear message around the world: the sick and wicked ideology of these evil extremists is no form of Islam that I recognise. I unequivocally denounce them and their twisted beliefs.”
Khan insisted that Londoners can’t let terrorists change their way of life.
Khan is a Sunni Muslim. In an interview with Time Magazine, Khan said he feels it is a personal mission of his to defeat extremism and radicalization.
“What I think the election showed was that actually there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the West,” Khan told the magazine in May 2016. “I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage, so whether it’s [ISIS] or these others who want to destroy our way of life and talk about the West, they’re talking about me. What better antidote to the hatred they spew than someone like me being in this position?”
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3. Khan did Not Support Brexit & Hopes the U.K. Can Have a Positive Post-EU Relationship With the Europe
Khan did not support Brexit and hoped that the U.K. would vote to stay in the European Union. But since Britain chose to leave, Khan has been hard at work making sure that London and the rest of the country isn’t hurt by the decision.
As Sky News notes, Khan said during a speech in Brussels that a bad Brexit deal would hurt the EU as much as it would hurt the U.K.
“Now is the time to be confident in the European Union, and to act with confidence. There is no need – as some have suggested – for the EU to send a message, or to instil fear, by punishing the UK,” Khan said. “Because a proud, optimistic and confident institution does not secure its future by fear.”
In March, The Guardian reported that Khan was critical of May’s Brexit deal. He believes that there must be an interim trade deal that gives British businesses access to the single market or there could be “colossal damage” to the economy.
“Many experts, including the former EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, believe that concluding the negotiations within this time frame is impossible,” Khan said in March of a two-year time frame to complete Brexit. “If neither an interim or final deal is in place at the end of the two years the government has allowed then the UK would crash out of Europe and we would suffer very significant economic detriment.”
Khan also said in March that he wants to make sure London will remain a “key partner” with Europe and the EU after Brexit. He also wants May to allow EU citizens to remain in Britain as the “perfect gesture of goodwill.”
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4. Khan Worked as a Human Rights Lawyer, Representing Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan in 2001
Khan grew up in Tooting, South London and was born to Pakistani immigrants. He is the fifth of eight children.
The future London Mayor was a human rights lawyer before he became a politician. According to a New Statesman profile, his teacher and watching LA Law inspired him to pursue a law career. He studied at University of North London (known today as London Metropolitan) and then took his finals at the Guildford College of Law.
1994 was a big year for Khan. He married his wife, Saddiya and joined the Christian Fisher law firm, focusing on human rights. In 2002, the firm was renamed Fisher Khan. He left in 2004 when he became interested in running for Parliament.
Khan was successful in several high profile cases, including a 2001 case involving Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam in the U.S. Khan represented the controversial minister, who once called Jews “bloodsuckers” and was banned from entering the U.K. Khan fought the ban, which a judge overturned before it was reinstated on appeal.
The Chicago Tribune noted that Khan argued that there was “no evidence” to support the idea that Farrakhan would be a danger if allowed to enter the U.K. He called the judge who ended the ban “very brave and sensible.”
“I have never hidden the fact that I was a human rights lawyer. Unfortunately, that means that I had to speak on behalf of some unsavoury individuals. Some of their views made me feel deeply uncomfortable, but it was my job,” Khan told the London Jewish News last year. “Even the worst people deserve a legal defence.”
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5. Khan’s First Act as Mayor Was Attending a Holocaust Memorial
Khan’s first act of mayor was to show support for London’s Jewish community. He attended a Holocaust memorial ceremony in May 2016, where over 150 Holocaust survivors were in attendance. As The Associated Press notes, the annual event takes place at a rugby stadium.
Khan said he was honored to “meet and hear from Jewish survivors and refugees who went through the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust,” the AP notes.
The event happened after a contentious campaign, when Conservatives brought up Khan’s alleged ties to extremism. Khan told Time Magazine that he’s the one who has been targeted by extremists.
“I’ve experienced the receiving end of this extremism, whether it’s the extremists campaigning against me when I stood for Parliament in 2005 and 2010 and 2015, saying somehow it was haram — sinful — to vote, let alone to stand for Parliament,” Khan said in 2016. “I’ve been on the receiving end of a fatwa when fighting for equality in relation to same sex marriage [in 2013], so I understand what that’s like.”
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