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London’s new Muslim mayor has the perfect response to Trump making an “exception” for him

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

It's 2016, and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, says he would make an "exception" to his proposed rule to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States for London's newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan.

"There will always be exceptions," Trump told the New York Times when asked how his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US would affect London's first Muslim mayor.

But Khan isn't interested in being Trump's special case — it plays into the "hands of extremists," Khan said Tuesday.

"This isn’t just about me," Khan responded to Trump. "It’s about my friends, my family, and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world."

Khan, like many around the world, has expressed concern with Trump's rise in the United States, and says he is rooting for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to win the presidential race.

Trump proposed this ban on Muslims late last year after the attacks in Paris, using the tragedy to claim Muslims "nurture" a widespread hatred for the US and the West — a hatred that Trump says will run rampant in the US if the borders allow entry to Muslim Syrian refugees, among whom, he believes, are members of ISIS.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of Republicans said they agreed with Trump's idea to shut down the borders to Muslims — an opinion Khan warned against.

"Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe. It risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists," Khan said. "Donald Trump and those around him think that Western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam. London has proved him wrong."

But while London elected Khan to office, the mayoral race came with Islamophobic yammer from the opposition similar to Trump's allegations.

Trump isn't the only one saying ban Muslims. Europe is fighting its own battle with Islamophobia.

Khan's historic win — to be the first Muslim mayor of the European Union's largest city — came on the heels of a campaign period that deeply questioned Khan's ethnic and religious background. Equating all Muslims to terrorists is a form of Islamophobia, which has become all too common, especially in Europe, and has only been compounded by the recent onslaught of Syrian refugees trying to cross into the West as their country is torn apart by ISIS and civil war.

Resistance first came from his opposition, Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate who claimed Khan had been "giving platform, oxygen, and cover" to Islamic extremists. Then the United Kingdom's Prime Minister David Cameron picked up Goldsmith's claims in Parliament, and was quickly met with shouts of "racism" from the Labour Party.

"Suliman Gani — the honorable member for Tooting [Khan] has appeared on a platform with him nine times. This man supports [ISIS]," Cameron said. "They are shouting down this point because they don’t want to hear the truth."

Similarly, this brand of Islamophobia has been apparent in Germany. The country has seen the rise of the far-right anti-immigration movement, Pegida, which has been responding to Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls to open borders due to the refugee crisis.

Pegida leaders, who have made gains in local elections in the past months, make claims not far from Trump's.

"The problem for us is this parallel society, that they don’t accept and respect German law," their leader Lutz Bachmann told Time in January.

But even with this apparent rise in anti-immigration sentiments, Khan's victory in London, and his public stand against being one of Trump's exceptions, signals opportunity for a shift away from such vitriol.

As the Atlantic's Peter Beinart put it, Khan's words give leaders around the world incentive to take a stand:

Imagine if hundreds or thousands of non-Muslim mayors, heads of state, and celebrities from around the world publicly followed Khan’s lead and said that they too won’t take advantage of their privileged status. Or imagine if they vowed to come to Trump’s America and tell border security that they are Muslim. Such a movement might help Americans realize how repulsive non-Americans consider Trump’s Muslim ban. It might help them realize how catastrophic any effort to implement it would be.

Clarification: This article has been edited to reflect that Pegida is a far-right movement, not a party.

Islamophobia in America goes much deeper than Donald Trump

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