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Sadiq Khan Elected As London's First Muslim Mayor


And now we head across the Atlantic to hear about a different kind of political upheaval. London has elected a new mayor.


SADIQ KHAN: My name is Sadiq Khan, and I'm the mayor of London.


MARTIN: He was sworn in today as mayor of Europe's biggest city, and his biography is also making headlines around the world. He is the son of Pakistani immigrants. His father was a bus driver, his mother a seamstress. And yes, he is the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital city. We wanted to hear more about him and the election, so we go now to NPR's Lauren Frayer, who's in London. Lauren, hello, welcome.


MARTIN: So tell us a little bit more about Khan and how people are reacting to his win, which was by large margins.

FRAYER: Sadiq Khan's story is really very typical of a diverse city like London. One of eight children, his family - an immigrant family - grew up in public housing, Pakistani immigrant parents. He became a human rights lawyer. He was elected to Parliament and now has been elected mayor. He is a Muslim, just like 1 in 8 Londoners.

I went down to Brick Lane, an ethnically diverse street in East London to gauge reaction. And I met a bearded Muslim man - Saj Khan - no relation to the new mayor. Here's what he had to say.

SAJ KHAN: My father came in the '60s. You know, he was a laborer. He works in a bakery 12 hours a day, seven days a week sometimes. It's a very U.K. story. All across the U.K., you'll find sons and daughters of Pakistani immigrants who are in high-profile jobs who work very hard. They're doctors, they're nurses, they're engineers, everything - you know, all my friends, everyone I know. So it's not that - it's not anything significant. It's his policies that matter.

FRAYER: Michel, that's a Londoner of Pakistani descent. But I heard the very same thing from white Londoners whose families have been here for generations. This is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. In fact, more than a third of Londoners are foreign-born.

MARTIN: So I'd like to hear more about Khan's plans, but I just want to spend a few more minutes on the race itself. The Guardian newspaper called this one of the most rancorous British elections in recent years. So tell us a little bit more about that, if you would, the tone of the raise. And what were some of the things that caused The Guardian to say that?

FRAYER: Khan's closest contender was really a man who's his polar opposite to the ways, Zac Goldsmith, the son of a billionaire financier. He and Khan are like the two faces of London, so immigrant and blueblood, both members of Parliament from opposing parties. And the campaign really got rancorous when Goldsmith tried to link Khan to extremists. His campaign put out leaflets calling con dangerous. The implication was that a Muslim couldn't keep London safe from possible Islamist extremism - Islamic terrorism. But the public really didn't buy it, and that actually offended a lot of people.

MARTIN: So what are some of Sadiq Khan's policy proposals?

FRAYER: His number-one policy proposal is housing - numbers one, two, three, four and five. London has some of the most expensive housing in the world. The average house price is three quarters of a million dollars. And Khan has promised to build more housing and also to build more affordable housing. He also promises to freeze public transit fare prices. He says he'll tackle the capital's inequality. Today, at his swearing in, he said he wants to ensure that all Londoners get the opportunities that this city gave him when he was younger.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer with us from London. Lauren, thank you.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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