Speech to UJS

Speech to UJS

***Check against delivery***

Shalom Aleichem.

I hope everyone had a happy Chanukah - Chanukah Sameach.

It’s great to be here with a room full of people who are so young – and yet so determined to make the world a better place.

Your activism is inspiring.

I encourage you to keep engaged in politics and the community throughout your life.

It will bring you huge rewards.

 

---

It’s sad, but there are a great many people who say that we shouldn’t get on.

A room full of Jews and me, a Muslim.

They say that we’re very different.

That we have fundamentally opposed world views.

That at the very least, we should be suspicious and cautious of one another.

You’ll hear it from Muslims and Jews alike – from community leaders, religious leaders and others.

They are the propagandists of division and hostility between our communities.

Some will have questioned whether I should have been invited to speak with you tonight.

And others will questioned whether I should have accepted your kind invitation.

Well they’re wrong.

And we have a responsibility to tell them, and the rest of world, that they’re wrong.

I believe that you and I actually have more in common than most people – and I don’t just mean our good looks and youth.

I believe that British Muslims and British Jews have more in common than almost any other communities.

---

We share a cultural history shaped by emigration.

I’m the first Khan not to emigrate for three generations.             

My grandparents moved from India to Pakistan after partition.

And my parents moved from Pakistan, my dad first to Australia, and then to London, in search of a better life.

But I will be staying exactly where I am here in London.

And I know this is something that our communities have in common.

While it may have been slightly longer ago - I’m sure that all of your families have emigrated at least once over the last century – probably more.

And that creates a unique cultural identity that I’m sure you will recognise.

To have families spread across the world.

Multiple countries you could call home.

Supporting both England and Israel in the football, or England and Pakistan in the cricket.

And to have parents or grandparents who keep a suitcase packed under the bed, just in case it’s needed.

---

Our shared history of emigration means we also have something else in common – we know what it’s like to arrive in a new country with next to nothing.

Nothing but a few pennies to rub together.

And to have to work hard to rebuild from scratch.

When my parents arrived in London they were as poor as it gets.

They worked every hour that God sent to build a better future for me, my brothers and my sister.

My dad worked as a bus driver and my mum sewing clothes.

And that work ethic that was necessary for them to pull themselves out of poverty leaves a deep impression for generations.

It’s something British Muslims and British Jews share.

I’m amazed at some of the stories I’ve heard from people like Parry Mitchell, Michael Levy and Gerald Ronson who I’ve had the pleasure to befriend.

People who in a single lifetime have pulled themselves out of absolute and total poverty – literally living in slums in East London -to becoming so incredibly successful.

That recent experience of poverty has instilled a deep respect for education into both of our communities.

When I was growing up my parents wanted me to be a dentist.

Becoming a lawyer, an MP or even Mayor of London is still considered to be a consolation prize by my family!

And I’m sure many of you will know exactly how that feels.

Because both our communities desperately want the next generation to do better than the last.

---

But our communities also have something darker and more painful in common.

We know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of our faith.

It’s difficult to describe the internal conflict that anti-Semitism or Islamophobia causes to people who have never experienced it.

To be discriminated against because of a characteristic over which you have no control causes deep personal insecurity.

It makes you question your entire being.

And makes you feel besieged.

It’s a feeling I know only too well.

Despite having lived in south London for my whole life, I am a Liverpool fan when it comes to football.

It’s something I try to keep quiet now that I’m running for Mayor of London…

But I support Liverpool because of the racism and Islamophobia that me and my brothers experienced on the terraces of London’s football clubs in the 1980s.

There was no way I could safely go to a match after that.

And anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are both on the rise again.

Anti-Semitism has increased by nearly 95 per cent over the last year and Islamophobia by 70 per cent.

We have public figures like Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and Donald Trump who are encouraging and fanning the flames of hate.

Mosques and Synagogues alike have to hire private security guards - as do Jewish and Muslim schools.

I applaud the amazing work of the volunteers at the CST who tirelessly and without any fanfare help patrol and protect the community.

But it’s simply not acceptable that they are necessary in 21st century London.

And we can and must do more to challenge these hate crimes.

As Mayor, I’ll make tackling hate crimes – including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism– a far higher priority for the Metropolitan police.

I’ll ensure we provide the resources necessary to keep our communities safe.

And I’ll work with London universities to ensure that anti-Semitic or Islamophobic preachers of hate are not welcome in any university in our city – and are not given a platform for their poisonous views.

---

There’s something else that our communities share that is difficult to describe to those that have never experienced it.

Having to juggle multiple identities.

To be a devout Jew and to be proudly British and a Londoner.

Or to be a Muslim and deeply patriotic Brit.

To have faith in a country that is increasingly secular.

It can be difficult.

To be at the same time British through and through, but also a Muslim or a Jew.

To have to take time out of your busy working day to go and pray.

Or to have to explain to your mates why you said no to the bacon sandwich …

And that isn’t a reference to Ed Miliband….

--

The fact that London allows people like us to be both proud of our cultures and faiths, and at the same time proud to be a Londoner and to be British, is one of the reasons I love this city so much.

London is an amazing melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds.

And yet we retain a strong shared identity as Londoners.

Not a rose-tinted identity of Eastenders and jellied eels.

But a modern and vibrant identity that is tolerant, respectful and built out of shared experiences.

You don’t have to be born within the M25 to be a Londoner.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, black, white, gay or straight – you can be a Londoner.

You can be a conservative or a liberal – and still be a Londoner.

And what it means to be a Londoner is shaped by the people who come here to make a home for themselves.

Look at the great work done by members of our faiths on Mitzvah Day and the Big Iftar.

I am full of admission for people like Laura Marks.

I’m still moved when I think about the warmth and generosity shown to me when we opened our Ramadhan fast in in London's synagogues in July.

London never stands still and it’s always evolving.

 

You ask any Londoner what ‘real London food’ is, and they’ll tell you the curry houses of Tooting, or the bagels on brick lane or the Jamaican cafes in Kilburn or the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.

We are defined by our diversity.

--

That’s why the rise of extremism amongst British Muslims is so deeply concerning.

Not only because in the light of the terrible attack on Paris, they clearly pose a real and present danger to all Londoners.

But also because theirs is an ideology that is violently opposed to London’s identity.

Opposed to our tolerance and our liberalism.

As Mayor, I will work with the Government and the Police to root out extremism and radicalisation.

By supporting mainstream Muslims to challenge the extremists.

By working with the internet providers to ban extremist websites.

By bringing back proper community policing, which has disappeared under this Government.

And most importantly by promoting social integration and ending segregation in London. British Jews are a shining example of how integration can succeed – an example we must learn from.

----

I’m determined to be a Mayor who reflects modern London.

Not to be a Mayor just for any one community or another.

Not to be defined by my faith, my background or my beliefs.

But to be defined as a Londoner.

A proud and patriotic Londoner.

And to stand up for all Londoners – no matter whom they are, where they’re from or what they believe.


The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better. To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice.