Dublin — London's newly elected Muslim mayor paid respect Sunday to the millions of Jews slain in the Holocaust as his first public engagement in office — and received a hero's welcome from London's Jewish community at the end.
Sadiq Khan attended the north London ceremony following a racially charged election campaign during which Conservative Party opponents sought to portray him as an apologist for Islamic extremism and to highlight cases of alleged anti-Semitism within the ranks of Khan's Labour Party.
The annual Yom HaShoah event inside a rugby stadium brought together thousands from London's Jewish community, including more than 150 Holocaust survivors and a combined choir from five Jewish elementary schools. Khan attended alongside Lord Levy, one of Labour's most senior Jewish supporters and the party's former lead fundraiser.
"I was really privileged and moved to meet survivors of the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust as well as their children, their great-grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren," Khan said after being mobbed by well-wishers.
Some said they had come specifically to meet London's first Muslim political leader. Many said they had been offended by recent anti-Israeli comments attributed to other Labour politicians, but they applauded Khan's attendance.
"Some people have said having a Muslim mayor will mean us Jews will all have to move to Israel, but I do not think so at all," said Mariam Mendelsohn, 78. "I think he will be good to all people. He looks like a very, very kind man. He has kind eyes."
London's previous Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, was suspended last month from the party after he claimed that Adolf Hitler had supported the Zionist aim of establishing Israel. Livingstone, who served as mayor from 2000 to 2008, has defended his comments and has vowed to fight potential expulsion from Britain's main opposition party.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has established an independent inquiry into the extent of anti-Semitic views within party ranks. The left-wing party traditionally has sympathized with Palestinian demands for nationhood and adopted a critical line on Israel.
"Labour is an anti-racist party to its core and has a long and proud history of standing against racism, including anti-Semitism," Corbyn said when establishing the fact-finding probe April 29. It is supposed to recommend party reforms including sanctions against members who adopt bigoted positions.