Opinion: Politics aside, Rishi Sunak becoming first British Asian PM is historic

Ataul Fatir Tahir, London
800px Official portrait of Rishi Sunak crop 1
Rishi Sunak | Wiki Commons

‘The Brits have done something very rare in the world, to place a member of a visible minority in the most powerful office.’ 

These words were tweeted by Shashi Tharoor – an Indian politician and ardent critic of British colonial rule especially in India, as Rishi Sunak is elected as Prime Minister of Britain and the Leader of the Conservative Party.               

Leaving aside our politics, electing a British Asian, who is also a devout Hindu, to the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, especially in the current climate of the world, shows the open-mindedness and acceptance the British can offer. It’s a rare feat for any country, let alone a Western one.

Where right-wing political parties are gaining astonishing ground in Europe – and at times even becoming leaders, as is the case in Italy – Britain’s openness, diversity and acceptance have overcome racism and race-based politics.          

There are few countries in the world where this could happen. Though racism still exists in Britain and there are questions about a class-based ruling elite, one thing is for sure; the Brits are certainly more accepting than others in this divisive world we live in. 

Who could have imagined in the early 20th Century when Britain ruled India, that its own Prime Minister would one day be a man of Indian descent?

Whatever the other questions surrounding how democratic his role in office was, or his wealth and privileged background, the fact that a minority ethnic Asian can attain the highest office of the land is a testament to the greatness of British values. These are the true British values which make Britain great. 

Even during the colonial era, Britain had a policy of non-interference: To allow religions and cultures to practice and even preach under British rule. This was a stark difference between the ruling style of other European countries like Portugal and France who largely forced their subjects to abandon their religious and cultural identities. This is something Peter Oborne (a strong critic of the Conservative party) showed in his recent book The Fate of Abraham: Why The West is Wrong about Islam where he shows Britain being exceptionally more open to Islam compared to other Western countries in the West.

Over 100 years ago, while the British ruled India they accepted their subjects to openly practice their religions. The British rule was off the back of a chaotic rule in India where religious persecution and conflicts were rife. No matter your opinion on colonialism – one must admit to the openness the British have offered historically. 

It was for this reason that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, hugely praised the British in India. Only those who have experienced persecution and oppression can truly appreciate freedom and justice.

Today, where division continues to take root throughout the world, we can at least celebrate a country where a member of an ethnic minority can take the most powerful position the country can offer. 

Unfortunately, few countries can make such a statement. 

Let’s hope Rishi Sunak does all Britons truly proud and works to establish absolute justice while steering the country out of chaos.

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