Minister wins over doubters

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

New Community Cohesion minister Sadiq Khan has dismissed suggestions that he might be unsympathetic to Jewish concerns.

Mr Khan met 30 senior community professionals and lay leaders at a lunch in North-West London last week hosted by the Jewish Leadership Council.

His appointment had been greeted with some anxiety because as a solicitor he represented antisemitic preacher Louis Farrakhan when the Nation of Islam leader tried to overturn the ban on his entry into the country.

Sources at the lunch reported that Mr Khan addressed leaders' concerns at the start of his remarks, seeking to allay any question over his commitment.

One of his tasks will be to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism and he told the gathering that he had already asked the group dealing with campus issues to speed up its work. He pledged to be the "champion" of the government's efforts to combat antisemitism.

Mr Khan revealed that with fears about a rise in antisemitism and other racist activity because of the economic downturn, his boss, Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears, had been asked by the Prime Minister to join his special economic task force to give briefings on communal tension.
JLC chief executive Jeremy Newmark said: "It was important that the minister had this opportunity to outline his plans to communal organisations and respond to questions from them just five weeks after taking office. His pledge to act as a ‘champion' in implementing government measures to tackle antisemitism was particularly welcome."

Last updated: 3:11pm, November 13 2008