The world’s press seems to have gone crazy over the fact that London has a new Mayor. Actually that’s not strictly true. The reason they are so excited, is that the Mayor is a Muslim. At first glance you might think that this was a newsworthy development. I did. But then I stopped and thought about it for a while. Why should we be so surprised or even interested that a Muslim has been elected to govern one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world?
When we are looking to elect someone to a political office, there are many things we should be interested in finding out. What is their political ideology? How do they feel about the key issues of the day – housing, immigration, affordable transport and the like? Are they intelligent? Do they have the right diplomacy skills? Are they political skilled and able to balance the needs of several groups with differing needs? The list goes on.
How important among these are their religious beliefs? I would suggest not at all. After all, he is not being appointed as a spiritual leader but as one to manage the challenges and needs of over 8 million inhabitants of one of Europe’s most vibrant and economically important cities.
What he chooses to believe about the creation of the universe, the life hereafter and the way to pay respect to your chosen deity is unlikely to play a major role in how he goes about his job.
If we truely want to put an end to discrimination on grounds of race or religion, then surely we have to stop talking about the ethnicity and religious beliefs of people in the public eye. Did we see banner headlines when Boris Johnson was elected that he was born in the US and has UK and US citizenship?
Did we see revealing expose`s about his Turkish and Swiss heritage? I don’t think so. Was there a media frenzy the last time a Christian was appointed as Mayor? If Zac Goldsmith had won, would we be amazed that Londoners had elected a Jewish Mayor? Of course not – so why should it be so over a British Muslim.
We may as well make decisions on who to vote for based on which football team they support or whether they are pro or anti Marmite (a polarizing subject if ever there was one)!
The press seems to revel in these discussions that remind us of where we are different rather than helping us remember where we are similar. I have never met him, but I am sure that London’s new Mayor wants what is best for his adopted city, it’s inhabitants and visitors. This will be driven by his desire to offer himself as a public servant and not by any spitual beliefs he may or may not have.
So we have a new Mayor. Let’s hope he is the right person for the job. In the last UK census 176,632 people in England and Wales described themselves as Jedi Knights when asked for their religion. This makes it 7th most popular faith in those countries. Now if our next Mayor of London was 2 foot tall, green and could levitate – then I think his religion would be worthy of a mention in the press!