(JTA) — Sadiq Khan was elected as the first-ever Muslim mayor of London, rising above his Labour Party’s anti-Semitism scandal.
Khan won with 44 percent of the vote to Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith’s 35 percent, according to The Guardian. The remaining votes went to candidates from smaller parties, such as the Green Party.
A self-described moderate Muslim, Khan — the son of a Pakistani-born bus driver — will be the city’s first Labour mayor in eight years. His party has been roiled by accusations of anti-Semitism in recent months.
Khan, who campaigned hard in the Jewish community and has said he will be the “Muslim mayor who will be tough on extremism,” according to the Standard, has criticized his party for not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.
On Friday, just hours before final votes had been tallied, another Labour Party member, David Watson, was suspended for anti-Semitic remarks — joining dozens of party members reported to have been so punished.
Watson, a fundraising coordinator in the London area of Walthamstow, was suspended for Facebook posts claiming the Islamic State group used Israeli-made weapons, comparing Israel’s Mossad to the Nazis and accusing Israel of perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians, London’s Jewish Chronicle reported.
He also wrote on Facebook that Zionism is a “racist ideology,” and that, “If I were a Palestinian, like most people … I’d probably want to be a guerilla fighter and liberate my people from a brutal and oppressive occupation.”
Even London’s former Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, was suspended for anti-Semitic remarks in late April, following a series of interviews in which he claimed that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism.
Khan, in contrast, has spoken out against anti-Semitism, condemning Livingstone’s remarks and saying he had changed his mind about his 2009 call for sanctions against Israel.
It is not clear yet how well Khan performed among Jewish voters. A poll published the day before the election showed that Jewish support for his party was at historic lows. Hundreds of London Jews, including Britain’s chief rabbi, complained Thursday of being inappropriately turned away from the polls, told they did not appear on the list of registered voters.
Khan “could not have done more than he has to address the concerns of the Jewish community on anti-Semitism and engage with it — from attending a mock seder where he donned a kippah to meeting charities and kosher shoppers in north London,” Justin Cohen, news editor for London’s Jewish News, told JTA Friday.
A practicing Muslim who, according to the Daily Mail was the first British minister to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Khan has also been the target of Islamist death threats because of his liberal social views, particularly his support of same-sex marriage.
However, his opponent in the mayoral race criticized him for associating with Muslim extremists earlier in his career, including sharing the stage with an Islamist leader on multiple occasions. This week, according to the Daily Mail, Khan apologized for, in 2009, calling moderate Muslim groups “Uncle Toms.”
As he was declared victor, Khan pledged to be a mayor for all Londoners, the Standard reported.
He has pledged that his top priorities upon assuming office will be affordable housing and reviewing the security services’ readiness to combat terrorist attacks.