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London Mayor Sadiq Khan Reads Aloud Racist Tweets About Himself

London Mayor Sadiq Khan gets a lot of online abuse.

And at South By South West (SXSW) — an annual music and technology conference held in Austin, Texas — he read out some of the tweets he had been sent, arguing that it could dissuade those from minority backgrounds off a career in politics.

Khan is the first British politician to make a speech at SXSW, and revealed that he’s been called a “muzzie terrorist” and has received a series of graphic Islamophobic death threats. Khan also happens to be the first Muslim mayor of any major western capital.

But he said he wasn’t attempting to frame himself as a victim — instead, he wanted to draw attention to the lack of regulation on leading technology companies, and the intimidation faced by young people who might feel excluded from the platform.

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“Ask yourself this,” Khan said. “What happens when young boys and girls from minority backgrounds see this kind of thing on their timelines, or experience it themselves? Or someone thinking about becoming a politician? And what about young girls and women who are being driven from these platforms, reversing our long fight for gender equality?”

Before reading out six examples of abusive tweets he’s received, Khan even joked about the benefits of the time difference, hoping that it would mean US President Donald Trump wouldn’t be sending any “late night tweets attacking (him) during the course of this speech”.

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Khan referred to Trump’s response to the London Bridge terror attack which left eight people dead. The President criticised Khan following the attack — which led to a spokesperson for Khan saying that the Mayor had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

In a video later posted to his social media accounts, Khan read out tweets that compared him to a “pigeon” and said he looked like a “sh*t stunt double for [Manchester United manager] Jose Mourinho.” Other expletive-filled tweets included death threats, and frequent use of Islamophobic language.

It comes just days after letters encouraging people to participate in “Punish a Muslim Day” were sent to addresses around Britain with a list of specific violent acts which would be awarded points. Anti-Islamophobic group Tell Mama UK reported that letters were found Bradford, Leicester, London, Cardiff, and Sheffield.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating the letters as a hate crime as politicians and campaigners came together to condemn them as “disturbing”.

Sadiq Khan is clearly not alone either. An Amnesty International poll found that shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was more abused than any other MP during the UK general election in June, receiving 45% of all abuse sent to female MPs in the six weeks before election day. Indeed, even when Abbott was excluded from the sample, female Black and Asian MPs received 35% more abusive tweets than their white colleagues.

On International Women’s Day the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) Mhairi Black also read out some of the worst insults sent to her online in the House of Commons. The catalogue of abuse she listed included strangers describing her as a “slut, “dyke”, and “wee boy” — and using the c-word. Black also revealed an incident that took place weeks previously where a colleague accused of sexual misconduct "physically pressed up" against her in the voting lobby.

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"I could soften some of this ... but the reality is there is no softening when you're targeted with these words and you're left reading them on my screen every day, day in, day out... there is no softening just how sexualised and misogynistic the abuse is,” Ms Black said in the debate.

"I've been assured multiple times that I don't have to worry because I am so ugly that no-one would want to rape me,” she added. “All of these insults have been tailored to me because I am a woman."

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