London Mayor boasts of Muslim ancestry

London: “I have not been to Hajj but my great grandfather did go.” Mayor of London Boris Johnson told a gathering of Muslims invited by him for Eid reception at the City Hall.

Talking about his Muslim ancestry Johnson, a Christian, said that his great-grandfather, Haji Ahmed, was a successful businessman of Istanbul who had monopoly in honey wax business used to light lamps in mosques.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, speaking at the occasion
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, speaking at the occasion

The Mayor paid rich tribute to Muslims’ contribution in building Britain from working in factories after the world war to winning bronzes to Britain in Olympics. Mentioning in particular, Mogadishu born, Olympics double gold medallist, Mohammad Farah, Johnson clarified that “Mo” as the athlete is commonly known, “is in fact Mohammad in short.” Johnson emphasised that Britain was changing.

Johnson is the descendent of Ali Kemal Bey, an Interior Minister in the government of Damat Ferid Pasha, Grand Vizierof the Ottoman Empire. After Ali Kemal Bey’s murder his ancestors were brought to Britain after World War I and took their grandmother's maiden name of Johnson.  From maternal side he is related to King George II.

Sadly, in an article, “Just don’t call a war” written in the wake of London bombing , on 7 July 2005, when Johnson was Spectator’s editor, he praised Israeli aggression against Palestinians and condemning Islam, “as the problem” he opined, “To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia— fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture – to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques – it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers...”

In 2009 he, however, either because of self study or to woo London’s Muslim voters, (8.5% of total population of London) he appeared to be a changed man. “The problem is people who wrench out of context quotes from the holy book of Islam, the Koran, and use it to inspire evil in men's hearts. That is a fact that few serious people would deny and we need to tackle the extremists.” He said in a pre-election debate.

After being elected during a visit to East London Mosque he said, “'Whether it's in theatre, comedy, sports, music or politics, Muslims are challenging the traditional stereotypes and showing that they are, and want to be, a part of the mainstream community,

“'That's why I urge people, particularly during Ramadan, to find out more about Islam, increase your understanding and learning, even fast for a day with your Muslim neighbour and break your fast at the local mosque. I would be very surprised if you didn't find that you share more in common than you thought.

''Muslims are at the heart of every aspect of society. Their contribution is something that all Londoners benefit from. Muslim police officers, doctors, scientists and teachers are an essential part of the fabric of London.”

Baroness Saeeda Warsi (left), Johnson Boris showing off a painting presented by a Muslim artist
Baroness Saeeda Warsi (left), Johnson Boris showing off a painting presented by a Muslim artist

Addressing the reception, in her introductory speech Baroness Saeeda Warsi praised Johnson as someone who did not need to be explained about the changes Britain had gone through because he was himself fully aware of these changes and was keen to listen to Londoners.

Baroness Warsi urged the Muslim community to participate actively in British politics. Mentioning bad press she had received during the controversy related to what were found to be two minor violations of ministerial codes, the Baroness said that she was constantly asked by friends and relatives, “Why are you in politics?” To which, “My answer was so that my children do not have to do it.” She stressed that in order to prevent Benghazi like riots on the streets of Britain, it was vital that British Muslims took active part in politics.

Earlier in January, when she was still serving as Chairman of ruling Conservative Party, the Baroness had created headlines by her bold condemnation of rising Islamophobia in Britain that she said had, "passed the dinner-table test" to be socially accepted.

Audience listening to Johnson at the Eid reception

Ahmad Versi, Editor of monthly The Muslim News, co-host of the Eid reception said that British Muslims had come a long way and had excelled in various fields. Mentioning British tabloids that had ridiculed British participants in Olympics Versi said that after the spectacle success of Mohammad Farah and other Muslim Olympians same tabloids embraced them as, “of their own.”

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