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London elects first Muslim mayor as Europe struggles with Islamophobia
Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London on Saturday, defeating Conservative Party candidate Zac Goldsmith. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
British Labour Party leader Sadiq Khan stressed housing and transportation in his campaign for mayor of London, but it was his religion that took center stage among voters who elected the city's first Muslim mayor last week.

"Khan, 45, won a striking victory after a campaign dominated by anxieties over religion and ethnicity," The New York Times reported. "Britain has not sustained a large-scale terrorist attack since 2005 but an estimated 800 people have left Britain to fight for or support the Islamic State. Dozens of assaults on British Muslims were reported after the Paris terrorist attacks in November."

Several days before officials began counting ballots on Friday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 2016 Annual Report stating that rising anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe was a key religious freedom-related concern.

"The report highlighted how the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe has stoked simmering historical tensions between faith groups," the Deseret News reported.

Throughout the campaign, Khan's opponent, Zac Goldsmith, as well as other members of the Conservative Party, accused him of being sympathetic to Muslims involved in terrorist acts. They "sought to portray him as an apologist for Islamic extremism," the Associated Press reported.

Khan persevered with a platform of lowering housing costs and improving transportation options. Additionally, he "argued that, as an observant Muslim, he was well placed to tackle extremism," the Times reported.

However, some British Muslims worry that he tried to distance himself from their community during the campaign. "I didn't get the impression that he felt proud of his faith," said Suhaib Qazi of London in The Guardian's roundup of reactions to Khan's election.

Others said they hope his work as mayor will encourage people to correct their harmful stereotypes about Islam.

"I think (Khan's election) will definitely help on Monday morning when I will be having the daily recap of world events with my non-Muslim colleague," said Zainab Kidwai to The Guardian. "I will be able to proudly point out that such a prestige position has finally been occupied by a Muslim who is a much nearer representation of myself and my (community) than others who are currently making the news."

Although Khan is the first Muslim mayor of London, it is not unprecedented for members of the Islamic community to hold high political posts in Europe, the Times reported.

"Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Muslim mayor since 2009, and Sajid Javid is the British secretary of state for business," the article noted.
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