Prime Minister David Cameron has been labelled a “racist” for accusing the Labour Party candidate for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, of having associations with a supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group.
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Cameron accused Khan of appearing at nine events alongside Sulaiman Ghani, a little-known imam who Cameron said “supports IS”.
Labour MPs shouted “racist” at Cameron, party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the comments “disgraceful” and a Labour source speaking anonymously said it “demeans the office of prime minister” to repeat such allegations.
Cameron responded by saying: “The leader of the Labour party is saying it is disgraceful. Let me tell him, Suliman Gani – the honourable member for Tooting [Sadiq Khan] has appeared on a platform with him nine times. This man supports IS [Islamic State]. I think they are shouting down this point because they don’t want to hear the truth.”
Khan has accused Cameron’s Conservatives of running a “nasty, dog-whistling campaign that is designed to divide London’s communities”.
He admitted on BBC television this week that his work as a human rights lawyer and chairman of one of Britain’s leading civil liberties groups had brought him into contact with some extremists.
“I regret giving the impression I subscribe to their views. I have been quite clear that I find their views abhorrent,” Khan said.
The mayoral candidate race has almost turned into a mud-slinging contest with both sides throwing nasty accusations at each other. The Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith recently claimed Khan, a Muslim, wouldn’t tackle crime well as he “provided cover for extremists”.
Despite the Conservative Party’s attempts to derail Khan’s campaign, experts and opinion polls suggest Khan will be triumphant come the May 5th elections.
Professor Tony Travers, a politics expert at the London School of Economics (LSE), said that Khan was “clearly a modern, progressive Muslim” and that opponents risked a “backlash” by raising issues which touched on his religion.
While an opinion poll for the London Evening Standard newspaper this month gave Khan a clear lead with 35 percent of first preference votes compared to 27 percent for Goldsmith.