Sadiq Khan is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. Not just because Khan was elected last week as the first Muslim to serve as mayor of London. Or even that Khan has over 2 million Twitter followers and uses his tweets as a weapon. But more importantly because Khan is the very type of Muslim who undermines the narrative Trump desperately needs in order to scare Americans into supporting him.
What do I mean? Well, Trump truly needs you to be afraid of Muslims. I mean really afraid, like quaking in your boots, hide the children and grab pitchforks afraid.
That’s why Trump keeps ginning up fears of Muslims such as his outrageous statement in March, “I think Islam hates us.” And why he loves regaling his fans with a completely debunked story of General John Pershing killing Muslims by dipping bullets into pig’s blood as a the way to defeat Muslim terrorists.
You see, if you don’t think Muslims are coming to kill us, then Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering America would be rightly seen as both irrational and as unabashed bigotry. Without people fearing Muslims, banning all Muslims would be no different than Trump suddenly declaring it’s time to ban all Mormons or all blacks from America.
So Trump needs all Muslims to be seen like those in ISIS. But now comes Khan. He wasn’t born into wealth and flash like Trump. Rather Khan is proudly the “son of a bus driver,” as he often stated during his campaign. Born in London shortly after his parents immigrated from Pakistan, Khan was one of eight children in his working-class family. Khan, not because his dad gave him millions like Trump, but through hard work and perseverance became a well-known human-rights lawyer. And in 2005, he was first elected to the British Parliament.
Despite the challenges of being Muslim in England, Khan has always publicly embraced his faith. He was sworn into Parliament with his hand on a Quran and in his very first speech in the House of Commons, he spoke of his Muslim faith and his father teaching him the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.
In fact, when Khan’s Conservative Party mayoral opponent Zac Goldsmith kept raising Khan’s Islamic faith during the campaign in the hopes it would scare Londoners, Khan tweeted mockingly: “Hey @ZacGoldsmith. There’s no need to keep pointing at me & shouting ‘he’s a Muslim’. I put it on my own leaflets.”
Khan is a living, breathing example of a person who is proudly Western and proudly Muslim. He doesn’t hate the West or America, as Trump needs you to believe that all practicing Muslims do.
Yet Trump’s promised ban of over 1 billion Muslims simply because of their faith would keep Khan out of the United States. For those who have forgotten Emperor Trump’s proclamation, here’s a reminder: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump, apparently aware that barring someone like Khan from the United States would make his ban seem even more ludicrous than saying Mexico will pay billions of a dollars to build a wall, announced on Monday that if elected president he would grant a special dispensation to Khan to allow him in our country. You see, Trump, like a Lannister from Game of Thrones, was showing he could be a benevolent ruler who makes exceptions to his royal edicts to those Muslims he personally deems worthy to enter his kingdom.
But Sadiq would have none of it. Rather on Tuesday he slammed Trump for his “ignorant view of Islam.” Adding, “this isn’t just about me, it’s about my friends, my family, and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world.”
And then Khan took to Trump’s favorite weapon, Twitter, to further slam the presumptive GOP nominee: “Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe. It risks alienating mainstream Muslims. London has proved him wrong.”
What Trump needs you to believe is that Khan deserves an exception to his ban because Khan is an exception to the world’s Muslims. Trump desperately needs you to believe that the rest of the world’s Muslims—except for a handful of exceptions like Khan—are all bent on killing us.
But here’s the thing: Khan is not the exception. Rather he’s a typical Muslim, especially one living in the West. He is both a proud Muslim and a proud Brit—there’s no contradiction between the two.
It’s just like when President Obama made his first US mosque visit in February, that I had the honor of attending, where he stated: “You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.”
Now don’t get me wrong. There are horrible Muslims who commit despicable acts of violence in pursuit of their political agenda. But they, not Khan, are the exceptions. It is only that small number of Muslims that should be banned from our nation, not all others who simply share their faith.
The problem for Trump is that as more Americans are exposed to Muslims like Khan, the more it undermines Trump’s campaign. Here’s hoping that happens a lot between now and November.