Sadiq Khan calls for mosque hate preachers to be investigated

Mayor speaks to JC following Jewish community hustings event at JW3


Sadiq Khan speaking at the JW3 mayoral election debate on Thursday - Liberal Democrat Rob Blackie and Tory Susan Hall seated to his right (photo by David Rose)

Mosque preachers who back banned terrorist organisations or spread antisemitism should be investigated by police and brought to justice, London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has told the JC.

He said mosques and other places of worship were “governed spaces, and anybody, whether it’s a rabbi, a vicar or an imam, should know that the police will take action if they break the law. If laws are broken, whether it’s online, on the street or in places of worship – if people do that, they should be investigated”.

He pointed out that the police had arrested 12 people at last week’s Quds Day parade, which was organised by supporters of the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies. 

“They didn’t do that in 2016 when I first became mayor, even though there were people waving Hezbollah flags, a proscribed terrorist organisation,” he said.

But although those who broke the law should face consequences, Khan said, “there’s a stop before that stage.

“I say, forget freedom of speech for a second. Forget whether you’re breaking the law. If you know you’re saying something that’s scaring your neighbours and colleagues from different faiths, don’t do it.”

That, he went on, included chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which many Jews understand to be a call for the obliteration of Israel.

Khan spoke to the JC on Thursday night after a chaotic hustings debate at JW3 with his main rivals in next month’s mayoral election, the Tory candidate Susan Hall, Liberal Democrat Rob Blackie and the Green Party’s Zoe Garbett.

It had to be halted for almost half an hour after an independent candidate who was not on the platform, gym owner Andreas Michli, shouted abuse whenever Khan tried to speak and refused to leave when asked by the venue’s security staff. Michli was convicted in 2022 for refusing to close his premises during Covid pandemic lockdowns.

The debate, hosted by the London Jewish Forum and Jewish News, saw fierce clashes over law and order, housing and public transport.

However, all the candidates agreed that it would never be acceptable for swastikas to be displayed at protest marches, condemning the claim made by police after this occurred last month that determining whether this broke the law would depend on its “context”.

They were also united in expressing dismay at the surge in antisemitism seen in London since the Hamas massacre. Hall said she had spent the day in Golders Green, where Jews had told her they felt “unsafe”. She and Blackie both attacked Khan’s record on policing, saying that last year 10 per cent of Londoners had been victims of crime. Hall said the answer was to return to borough-based policing, which would make the Met more responsive and accountable.

Khan responded by blaming government spending cuts: “We’ve lost more than £1 billion from our police budget”, he said.

In his opening remarks, Khan spoke of the need to bring the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas home. This brought him warm applause, as did a pledge that the 210 bus route was about to be extended so that it directly connects the large Jewish communities of Golders Green and Stamford Hill.

In his JC interview, Khan defended his recent statement following the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza that Britain should stop exporting arms to Israel, although he insisted he was strongly opposed to the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) campaign.

“I’m against BDS, and when I said that to a Muslim journalist, I was criticised for it. It becomes a collective punishment: innocent workers, innocent artists, innocent academics get caught up in it.

“Selling arms is different, because that’s not collective punishment, and there are legitimate questions in relation to the deaths of aid workers.” Khan reminded the JC that “I wasn’t calling for this in October. But the government hasn’t published its legal advice and I think there are questions about it.”

He said he was deeply concerned about the rift between Muslims and Jews that had opened up in the wake of the massacre, but remained optimistic that in time, it would be healed: “You talk about the differences between us, but park that here for a second: there’s all this stuff we agree with. My view is that God willing, this conflict will soon be over.”

Then, he said, the interfaith and inter-communal work that was thriving before the conflict would resume. He cited some examples, including help given by the Community Security Trust to make mosques safer: “The rise in antisemitism goes hand in hand with a rise in Islamophobia. If you’re not careful you can get to doom and gloom. Yes, things are really difficult now.

“Every time there’s tension in the Middle East, there’s an increase in antisemitism. This isn’t the first it’s happened, and I’m afraid the bad news is that it won’t be the last.”

However, the mayor went on, the Jewish community had shown that it could be Muslims’ ally and friend, and when the war ended, it would again be possible to focus on what he termed “the commonalties”.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive