A Conservative Cabinet minister has been accused of using “smears and insinuation” to attack Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London on account of his Muslim faith.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, claimed that Mr Khan had spoken alongside “extremists” – despite the Labour MP having in fact dedicated years to fighting radicalisation.
A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain told the Independent Mr Fallon’s comments illustrated that Muslim politicians still faced attacks that played to prejudices about their religion – and that that Mr Khan should be judged on his record rather than his faith.
“When British Muslims take part in politics and in the democratic life of our country, they deserve to be treated fairly and not be subject to smears that they are somehow closet extremists,” the MCB spokesperson said.
“The Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi once described Islamophobia as having passed the dinner table test, and this is a case in point, where the loyalty of British Muslims and Muslim politicians is questioned.
“By denying Muslims their obligation and right to take part in our democracy, we risk doing Daesh's work who, likewise, are keen for Muslims to turn their back on democratic politics. Sadiq Khan deserves to be scrutinised on his record and policies, not smears by insinuation.”
Mr Khan has in fact previously criticised the Government for not being tough enough on extremism – arguing that the Government had “identified the problem but done nothing to fix it”.
The row follows an allegation from Mr Khan’s campaign that a speech in which Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith described the Labour candidate as “radical and divisive” was “coded racism”.
Mr Khan was asked about his appearance at an event run by the Islam Channel on LBC radio on Tuesday – and pointed out that David Cameron had done work with the same media outlet, which is available completely legitimately on Sky satellite service.
“Government ministers since then including Conservative ministers and Labour ministers at the time have done stuff with the Islam Channel and so, you know, like many other ministers I was invited and I attended,” he told the radio station.
“And by the way, in the last couple of years David Cameron has done events with Islam Channel.”
Mr Khan was also attacked in some newspapers on the basis that his sister’s ex-husband, now a high-profile lawyer, had previously held extremist views, which he has long-since renounced.
The Labour candidate noted that he had not seen Makbool Javaid in 12 years.
Mr Fallon’s latest attack was delivered a speech to Conservative activists in which he said Mr Khan would be unable do his job.
“We need a candidate who can unite our city, not a Labour lackey who speaks alongside extremists, proving himself unfit to perform that role,” he said, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.
“A man who has said Britain’s foreign policy is to blame for the terrorist threat.”
A spokesperson for Mr Khan’s campaign said Mr Fallon would “literally say anything during an election” and accused him of “demeaning” the office of defence secretary.
“The Tory campaign is in real desperation and it was only a matter of time before they went down this route — so it’s no surprise it’s Michael Fallon who will literally say anything during an election,” a spokesperson has said.
“Sadiq has consistently spoken out against extremism and terrorism. He’s suffered death threats and constant abuse from Muslim extremists throughout his life because of his mainstream views.
“He’s the only candidate in this election who has a real plan to put a stop to radicalisation.
“Attacks like this on mainstream Muslims like Sadiq only make it harder for us to fight extremists, put an end to radicalisation and beat the terrorists — it demeans the office of Defence Secretary.”
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