The campaign to stop Sadiq Khan being elected Mayor of London is starting to get a nasty, distinctly racist, anti-Muslim flavour.
On 12 February the centre pages of the Evening Standard carried a double page spread with the headline “Exposed: Sadiq Khan's family links to extremist organisation”. “Extremist” is the word of choice in the anti-Khan campaign. It was also in the Sun’s headline on 8 February, and is littered across the mainstream media’s web coverage. Zac Goldsmith preferred to call Khan “radical and divisive”, obviously with the same implication. Namely: Khan is linked to radical Islamism and perhaps even to terrorism.
The 12 February Standard article was hung on the fact that Khan’s former brother-in-law, Makbool Javaid, was at one point linked to ultra-Islamist group al-Muhajiroun; and that as a lawyer Khan defended some Islamists unjustly treated by the British and US governments.
The attempt to link Khan to Islamism is absurd. Bourgeois politicians of all parties and stripes are often insufficiently careful about who they associate with, and insufficiently sharp and clear in the political lines they draw around themselves. The idea that a paper like the Standard, owned by Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev, has any right to criticise such things is laughable.
But in this respect Khan really has nothing to answer for. He is being targeted because he is Labour and because he is Muslim. This sort of “exposé” is a lurid attempt to say, without actually saying it: “Look, he’s brown and his name is Khan — perhaps he's got something to do with extremism and terrorism”. If this campaign gets any grip, it will no doubt become even more unpleasant.
There is plenty for the left to criticise in Sadiq Khan's politics and campaign. But aside from our desire for a Labour victory, having an Asian, Muslim-background mayor of London would be positively good. The right-wing, anti-Muslim campaign against Khan is shameful.