The UK local elections have descended into an ugly slug fest, spewing up base prejudices currently simmering beneath the surface of British politics and society. The Prime Minister waded into bitter London mayoral elections, with an outburst at PMQs in which he attempted to brand the Muslim Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, as somehow sympathetic to Daesh (IS), due to his vague acquaintance with a certain other Muslim.
The effort was strained to begin with, hinged upon the MP having stood besides the lesser known figure at public events.
The PM's advisors were throwing mud at a wall to see if it could stick
Neither a rare, nor the worst, tactic in politics. Especially when your party may be on the brink of a thrashing. In the current atmosphere of Islamophobia, it was a fair political bet that it would succeed.
Six Degrees of Halal Bacon
Many of us who are public figures in the Muslim community have been similarly branded extremists by dint of perfectly legal ethical and political views.
Equally, we have been maligned by the media because we once stood near someone, who may have talked with someone, who once ordered a kebab next to someone whose brother once sat in the same traffic jam next to a car, driven by a man who may have once said the word 'Hamas' without following it with the word 'terrorist'.
This is like saying David Cameron and Vladimir Putin are dating because they have spent time alone
It is that petty. It is that childish. It is that spurious.
It is more objectionable and more potentially dangerous.
I have stood on fund raising platforms for orphans and impoverished families, alongside Mr Ghani on several occasions.
He holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the University of London (SOAS). He is an Imam, a well loved TV Presenter and Teacher. His words are moving and educate away from hatred and towards cohesion, care and inter community calm.
Why has a good man's reputation been thrown into the electoral gutter like so much fly blown meat
Do our top political figures feel the Muslim community has such a low electoral position that it's safe to select a random Muslim-sounding name, throw it down to be trampled upon, on the presumption no one will care enough to react?
Bank of Self Censorship Now Empty
Did the Cameron and Goldsmith camp bank on Muslim self censorship to protect them from political blow back if Mr Ghani was wrongly implicated as an IS supporter? Self censorship occurs when a community under pressure from all sides, like ours, reads that a known Muslim figure has been linked to non violent extremism. In fear of being peripherally likewise branded, the community has in the past distanced itself from that person, organisation or group (see 'kebab' comment above).
Political Own Goal
But a tipping point of forced self-shaming has been reached. Mr Sulaiman Ghani is a hugely popular, well liked and educated speaker who has actively campaigned against Daesh (IS).
Zac Goldsmith called him 'one of the most repellent figures in this country' Mr Ghani writes
I am appalled by his preposterous statement. Politics is a dirty game. Get me out of here
Conservative poster boy, Zak Goldsmith, has appeared in photographs with Mr Ghani in the past. Which by the government's own logic makes them bff's who share identical ideologies.
Goldsmith is also pally with his former brother in law, Imran Khan. A Pakistani former cricketer and politician who has, in his work as opposition leader, negotiated with the Taliban many times. This then makes Zac Goldsmith surely a graver threat (by proxy) to UK security than MP Sadiq Khan.
It is a game of six degrees to Kevin (Halal) Bacon.
I could go on. I won't.
At the end of the day, the government's toxic attempt at mud slinging has back fired. Aware of the risks of Islamifying his campaign,
Sadiq Khan has been at pains to play down his faith on the campaign trail, whatever his critics may say. As a Muslim former government minister and human rights lawyer he has sought to express solidarity with other faith groups even whilst feeling the need to politically play down his own.
He has tried to appease the influential Jewish vote in North London, saying
As a Muslim Londoner, I want to be the best Mayor that Jewish Londoners have ever had
Pledging to fight anti-semitism wherever it arises.
To be unable to express pride in your own faith and community in public in order to win the votes or other electors. Does not bode well for London or UK social cohesion.
No favourite in the Muslim community for his lack of support for the widely liked new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (a strong voice for Palestinian justice), Khan's fortunes have turned around as a result of the current ugly debacle.
Tories haemorrhaging Muslim support
Meanwhile, Mr Ghani, says he has feels 'betrayed' and 'disheartened.' He had been considering voting for Goldsmith and the conservative party. He had, by invitation, attended a Conservative Muslim Forum event which sought to encourage more Muslims to become party councillors.
It is time for all voters of good conscience to call out the government on its willingness to delve into some top hat of Muslims names, drawing them out one and a time and putting their welfare at risk, in order to win votes.
Downing Street has sown the seeds of suspicion in our community which, well into the political future, will yield distrust and dislike for their councillors and MP's.
The prime minister must retract his comments about Mr Ghani immediately. As he slurred him in full international view, he must now apologise as publicly.
MP Sadiq Khan has already issued a furious response saying: "The Tories are running a nasty, dog-whistling campaign that is designed to divide London's communities. I'm disappointed that the Prime Minister has today joined in."
Few Muslims are.
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