London Mayor Sadiq Khan comes to Chicago this week as the most powerful elected Muslim official in the Western world — but he’s unlikely to tout his ties to one of Chicago’s most prominent Muslims.
Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan’s fiery rhetoric and past references to Jews as “bloodsuckers” don’t sit easily with the message of tolerance and inclusion that Khan is expected to project during his two-day stay.
But 15 years ago, boxing aficionado Khan was very much in Farrakhan’s corner when he acted as Farrakhan’s lawyer in an attempt to overturn the British government’s long-standing ban on Farrakhan entering the U.K.
Khan at the time said “there was no evidence at all” that Farrakhan’s visits to other parts of the world had caused the kind of anti-Semitic and racially divisive problems that the British government feared Farrakhan would provoke.
And he praised a British High Court judge who overturned the ban as “very brave and sensible.”
Though the ban was ultimately upheld on appeal, Khan was later forced to defend his support of Farrakhan in London’s mayoral election earlier this year, telling London’s Jewish News that his past job as a human rights lawyer meant “I had to speak on behalf of some very unsavory individuals,” and adding “some of their views made me deeply uncomfortable, but it was my job.”
Full details of Khan’s Chicago itinerary were not immediately available Thursday, though he will not meet with any religious leaders, his spokeswoman said. He is expected to give a speech arguing for progressive, anti-extremist global policies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Thursday night, and to reassure U.S. investors that London remains open for business despite the confusion caused by the Brexit vote during a speech on Friday at tech hub 1871.
A spokesman for Farrakhan did not return calls seeking comment.
Khan’s history tackling U.K. border controls on behalf of the Nation of Islam leader serves as an awkward parallel to his clashes earlier this summer with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump said he would make an exception to his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. for Khan, who countered that Trump was “ignorant” about Islam and would only serve to make both Britain and the U.S. less safe.
–Sadly, Khan won’t be visiting the historic O’Hare International Airport joint where former British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012 reportedly agreed to the Brexit referendum that may have doomed Britain’s days in the European Union. He has “no plans” to do so, his spokeswoman told Chicago Inc.
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