THE pictures of London’s first Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan’s visit to one of London’s most famous Hindu temples before his election have gone viral on social media and he has also promised an official visit to India.
Pictures from the temple visit emerged on social media this week as Khan described the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir shrine in north London’s suburb of Neasden as one of his favourites.
“Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden is one of my favourite places in London,” the 45-year-old had said on his Facebook post dated May 3, days before his runaway victory in the mayoral elections.
“As Mayor, I will stand up for London’s Indian community, and strengthen London’s friendship with India. I look forward to leading a trade delegation to India at the earliest opportunity,” Khan said.
In one of the pictures, Khan, who is son of a Pakistani migrant bus driver, is seen performing “Jalabhishek” or water ritual on a golden idol of Shri Swaminarayan. The visit was a clear attempt on his part to stress his message of wanting to be a mayor for “all Londoners”.
“Let me be very clear, I’m not a Muslim leader or Muslims’ spokesperson, I’m the mayor of London. I speak for all Londoners,” the Labour party politician had told reporters soon after his victory.
The British capital’s first Muslim mayor, elected by an overwhelming mandate, has criticised British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government and his Conservative party mayoral campaign rival Zac Goldsmith for their divisive election campaign.
“David Cameronand Zac Goldsmith chose to set out to divide London’s communities in an attempt to win votes in some areas and suppress voters in other parts of the city,” Mr Khan wrote in The Observer, in his first article a day after being sworn in as the new mayor on May 9.
“They used fear and innuendo to try to turn different ethnic and religious groups against each other – something straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. Londoners deserved better and I hope it’s something the Conservative party will never try to repeat,” he said.
The Goldsmith camp has been criticised for using unpleasant tactics in the campaign, including trying to cash in on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity among Indian-origin Londoners by issuing leaflets with the message “Standing up for the British-Indian community”.
Mr Khan is reportedly planning a visit to India soon, in an attempt to counter this negative messaging and present his secular credentials. He beat Zac Goldsmith with 57 per cent votes (the largest mandate of any British politician in history) marking the return of Labour rule to the UK capital after eight years.
His officially swearing-in as the new Mayor of London took place with a multi-faith ceremony at Southwark Cathedral here on May 7.