US presidential candidate Donald Trump set off a cross-Atlantic spat on Monday by saying he will make an “exception” for London’s newly elected mayor Sadiq Khan to enter the US in view of his proposed ban on Muslims.
Khan rejected the offer outright, saying: “This isn’t just about me. It’s about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world.”
He had said in an earlier interview to TIME magazine he plans to visit the US before January, when a new president is traditionally sworn in, “in case Donald Trump wins”.
Khan, who belongs to the Labour Party, has been extremely critical of Trump and has pledged his support to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “I hope she trounces him,” he told BBC.
Trump set off worldwide outrage last December by proposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack that claimed 14 lives.
He clarified later he would allow foreign Muslim leaders to visit, but has since stuck to the larger message behind the call, as he has tended to with all controversial remarks.
“There will always be exceptions,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview, when asked how his proposed ban would affect London’s new mayor.
“I was happy to see that,” Trump said about Khan’s victory. “I think it’s a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good.”
Asked why that would be good, Trump said: “Because I think if he does a great job, it will really — you lead by example, always lead by example. If he does a good job and frankly if he does a great job, that would be a terrific thing.”
Khan, the son of Pakistan immigrants who has been called the most powerful Muslim leader in the western world, is unlikely to find Trump’s remarks anything but troublesome.
“Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe,” Khan said in the BBC interview. “It risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays in to the hands of extremists.”
He added: “Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam — London has proved him wrong.”
Khan has accused Conservatives of using tactics “straight out of the Donald Trump playbook” during the mayoral race.
“They used fear and innuendo to try to turn different ethnic and religious groups against each other,” he said. They tried to link him to extremists he had appeared with as a human rights lawyer.