British Muslims and the ballot box


by guest
21st April, 2010 at 5:34 pm    

contribution by Anwar Akhtar

Personally, my instinct is anybody claiming to be a community leader should automatically be disqualified from being so, but that can unfairly denigrate the valuable work of some committed individuals who deserve such a title.

However, I have an issue with decrees on how Muslims should vote coming from organisations such as MPAC, an outfit that frequently labels those not sharing its myopic worldview as ‘Zionist scum’ or ‘coconut sell-outs’.

Meanwhile Roshan Muhammed Salih, the London head of news for Iran’s state-funded Press TV, issued instructions that all Muslims should vote solely on foreign policy grounds – specifically Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Salih, “every single election issue, including the economy, education and health, pales in comparison” to the Iraq war.

There is a lamentable lack of interest on social and economic factors affecting some Muslim communities here, as well as other communities. Crucial issues – segregation, educational underachievement, health, gang culture, unemployment and cultural isolation – are ignored. Should British Muslims not consider these factors as well when voting? I know for many of us local is global, but local is also local.

Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan are of huge importance, not just to Muslims. The death toll, destruction and carnage in Iraq, Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses in Palestine, the conflict in Afghanistan – I am not saying that these should not influence your vote, but look at who is claiming to represent the ‘Muslim community’ and look at their agenda as well.

There is a debate taking place in British Muslim communities – discussions and arguments, within families and between friends, on interpretations and understandings of the Islamic faith, traditions, cultures, history and heritage. There has been a growth of liberal Muslim groups and activists who challenge clerical elites and take different views from more orthodox parts of the community.

Some of this is being led by British Muslims for Secular Democracy, which works to secure educational, cultural and economic opportunities for some of the most economically marginalised Muslim communities in the UK. Led by impressive women, they don’t pull their punches on matters of equality and human rights.

They receive flak from all sides. They are attacked by the orthodox for their liberalism in the face of rigid interpretations of ancient hadiths that do not always sit well with equality and human rights in the 21st century. Then there are neo-con cheerleaders such as Douglas Murray of the laughably named Centre for Social Cohesion, a professional agent provocateur, busy creating paranoia towards Muslims, who attacks BMSD for “reckless stupidity” for speaking up for youngsters jailed for throwing water bottles at riot police during last year’s Gaza demonstrations.

Now that is something to ask your prospective parliamentary candidate about – if elected, will they intervene in parliament over the disgusting ‘deterrent’ sentencing of young people by Judge John Denniss, who effectively set out to punish a community for being outraged over Gaza? I witnessed the Countryside Alliance riot in Westminster on 15th September 2004 – a violent mob trying to storm Parliament. No judge felt the need to issue deterrent sentencing for the teenagers present then. No judge felt the need to deliver a warning to young listeners of The Archers tempted to join the next pro-fox hunting demonstration.

Returning to the British Pakistani community, for it to help Pakistan more effectively it also needs to help itself. Improving the welfare of the communities here is vital; education, health and employment matter. Is there a Sure Start centre in your area and has it benefited your community? Has your local MP delivered investment and jobs in your region or worked for the welfare of your area? These things matter both here and in Pakistan.

So my advice, as an individual with no pretensions towards being a community leader or representative, is to think about everything, local as well as global, and then decide for yourself who to vote for.

Just make sure you vote. Because be absolutely sure about one thing – the racists will vote. They won’t be saying all politicians are the same, why bother or anything as idiotic as voting is haram. They will get out there and they will vote.

————
Anwar Akhtar is director of The Samosa


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Filed in: Muslim,Organisations,Party politics






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  1. pickles

    Blog post:: British Muslims and the ballot box http://bit.ly/aUSsPz


  2. Luke McGee

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: British Muslims and the ballot box http://bit.ly/aUSsPz


  3. sarcastic git

    British Muslims and the ballot box – http://bit.ly/bttqhZ




  1. boyo — on 21st April, 2010 at 7:02 pm  

    Surely the most sensible thing for everyone to do would be to vote Lib Dem, not because of their policies (some are good, some are silly) but because they will force electoral reform which should mean our votes actually begin to count and we may have a choice outside the big three, who all policy-wise stand for no change.

  2. Don — on 21st April, 2010 at 7:40 pm  

    Well, not everybody. That would mean an overwhelming LibDem majority and much as I want us to do well I don’t think we are geared up for that. A strong – very strong – LD presence holding the balance in a Lab/Lib coalition for a couple of years with Brown gone would be ideal.

    NB. I thing Brown has been stitched up by the media for his lack of viewer-friendly presence, but the damage is done. If he can hold out for one last incumbency then he should cut his losses and quietly resign after the election.

    I doubt if any government arising from the coming election would last for more than two years unless they came up with a miracle cure for everything.

  3. earwicga — on 21st April, 2010 at 8:05 pm  

    boyo, you forget that if it is a ‘hung-parliament’ we are going for, then it is you in England that has to vote Lib Dem. The rest of us have alternatives don’t we Douglas.

  4. earwicga — on 21st April, 2010 at 8:07 pm  

    Anwar

    How do you come to this conclusion in this part of your post?

    There is a lamentable lack of interest on social and economic factors affecting some Muslim communities here, as well as other communities.

  5. Rumbold — on 21st April, 2010 at 8:15 pm  

    Muslims should vote as individuals. As Anwar said, there are plenty of issues to vote on. And the most important thing is to vote (LPUK).

  6. boyo — on 21st April, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    Princess Earwicga @3

    Shampoo between the ears again I think – who do you think pays for your health, education, transport, defence etc?

    You just have the illusion of independence, although I agree the best thing for the English to do would be to jettison the wingeing, leaching Celts.

  7. Refresh — on 21st April, 2010 at 10:59 pm  

    I am going to be myopic and say that everybody should vote on the strength of our foreign policy. Especially one that is built on lies and deceit and has led to a million dead with more expected in the next phase.

    Now as far as a hung parliament is concerned, I am all for it – as long as we get rid of first past the post system. That would remove the possibility of us having another Tory majority, ever. Hopefully.

    And much more importantly, it will mean that it will be even harder for a future Blair going to war with nothing as back up except the words of a cab driver and a few flattering words from a cowboy.

    Anwar, I am afraid far too many words for such little content.

  8. Golam Murtaza — on 22nd April, 2010 at 9:04 am  

    I’ll be voting. And I’ll be interested to hear from those ethnic minority people who don’t bother to vote, then complain when more extreme right politicians are elected close to where they live. The apathetic, self-destructive twits will have some explaining to do.

  9. A. N. Other — on 22nd April, 2010 at 9:11 am  

    Are the BNP and HT working together to dissuade Muslims from voting?

    If not, they ought to be.

  10. earwicga — on 22nd April, 2010 at 9:16 am  

    boyo – what’s with the sexist shit? There’s no reason why you should know about the effect on creating a hung parliament by voting Plaid/SNP I suppose, but if you did know then your comment at 6 wouldn’t look so foolish. A little clue – the comment at 3 had nothing to do with devolution.

    Refresh – I share your ‘myopia’ and my vote will be very influenced by foreign policy.

  11. Grifone — on 22nd April, 2010 at 1:09 pm  

    “Refresh – I share your ‘myopia’ “

    Ain’t that the truth.

  12. earwicga — on 22nd April, 2010 at 1:13 pm  

    Grifone – you have no idea about the levels of violence the women of Afghanistan endure today, despite the violent crusade to ‘save them’. You are the last person that should be talking about myopia.

  13. Grifone — on 22nd April, 2010 at 1:43 pm  

    earwigca

    1) And what makes you think you are an authority of the levels of violence against women in Afghanistan?

    2) Where is the data you promised, of which yuo said there are “lots”, to suggest that violence against women in Afghanistan has remained at the same levels since the fall of the Taliban?

    3) Furthermore, on what basis do you say the the military campaign to remove the Taliban is a “violent crusade” when Taliban warlords and al-Qaeda terrorist attacks have been responsible for civilian deaths?

  14. Niels Christensen — on 22nd April, 2010 at 3:13 pm  

    Roshan Muhammed Salih didn’t notice, that the Iraq war has ended ?

  15. Golam Murtaza — on 22nd April, 2010 at 3:22 pm  

    The Iraq war hasn’t ended.

  16. Sunny — on 22nd April, 2010 at 7:29 pm  

    And the most important thing is to vote (LPUK).

    bwahahahahaha!!!

    shall I post another video of Mounsey?

  17. Don — on 22nd April, 2010 at 8:08 pm  

    earwicga/ Grifone

    So we can take it that neither of you has data to support your assertions?

    Carry on.

  18. Grifone — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:34 am  

    Only earwigca has proffered the assertions, without any data to support them.

  19. platinum786 — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:49 am  

    I don’t think too many people listen to these so called community leaders. First and foremost what makes you a community leader? Whatlegitimacy have you got? Are you elected? Are you selected? Do you command the respect of the majority you claim to represent. I don’t there is a single Muslim group in the UK that can claim that title on a national level.

    That leads onto my next point, who listens to these people? They make it sounds like Muslims in Britain are like foreign envoys of other Muslim countries. Whilst we may pay a great level of importance to issues like foreign policy where Muslim countries are involved, we care more about stuff like taxes, social benefits, the economy and the NHS.

  20. sofia — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:58 am  

    There’s absolutely no point in judging the parties based on their foreign policy…it will remain the same regardless who comes in. I am looking at issues around health, social care, the economy and crime.

    I agree with Golam (post 8)…I hear it all the time..and it’s not just about far right extremism, it’s about making a difference to your local community by holding your politicians to account. Make them work for their money and their votes. I haven’t had one canvesser at my door..and I’m just itching to give them a hard time if and when they come knocking.

  21. KB Player — on 23rd April, 2010 at 11:07 am  

    It ‘s worth catching the programme Sunday on Radio 4 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnbd) which about 31 minutes in has a discussion about the “Muslim” vote. The MPACUK person is trying to create one by making checklists on candidates’ records on eg Israel & Palestine which she says interests younger Muslim voters. The MCB says that there isn’t such a thing as a “Muslim” vote & they encourage people to vote but not for a particular party, but has a checklist too of issues eg committees on Islamophobia etc. Sughra Ahmed said something interesting about Muslim women being influenced by suffragettes into thinking it is important to vote ~(which is how I feel about voting as well, and have no patience with women who can’t be bothered voting).

    I find the idea of any move towards sectarianism horrifying, so you end up like the Balkans or Northern Ireland, with people forming themselves into religious tribes, and thought the MPACUK woman, a convert, especially repellent for that reason. However, the impression I got from these interviews is that Muslims will vote for economic and welfare reasons mostly, like everyone else (as per sofia’s post @20).

  22. sufi — on 23rd April, 2010 at 7:22 pm  

    MPAC have got horrible sectarian tendencies but also tap into a lot of young honest energetic activists that do good work at street level in campaigns around Gaza, anti racism and citizen activism. Sadly this is let down by the some of the extreme offensive anti jewish conspiracy nonsense they publish on the site, which is just awful as the writer here points out. I get the impression the people running MPAC either do not care or are just ignorant re how some of the sectarian nonsense and abuse they put out. The irony is they are just a Muslim version of a full on sectarian Zionist website.

  23. Anwar — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:03 pm  

    KB Player

    It ‘s worth catching the programme Sunday on Radio 4 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnbd) which about 31 minutes in has a discussion about the “Muslim” vote. The MPACUK person is trying to create one by making checklists on candidates’ records on eg Israel & Palestine which she says interests younger Muslim voters.

    In other words what zionist organisations have been doing for years, you mean.

  24. KB Player — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:29 pm  

    Anwar

    No, I don’t mean that at all. I don’t pay much attention to zionist organisations.

  25. douglas clark — on 23rd April, 2010 at 9:48 pm  

    Neither do I Anwar,

    It would be ridiculous if anyone that held around here did.

    Don’t you agree?

  26. douglas clark — on 23rd April, 2010 at 10:14 pm  

    Anyway,

    I find all this ‘I am a Muslim’ stuff very very annoying.

    It is exceptionalism, It is uniqueness that is, frankly, stupid.

    It is, frankly an exceptionalism that doesn’t or shouldn’t exist.

    It is an attempt to make a difference between you and me when it doesn’t exist.

    It is what Sunny Hundal said, way, way back about ‘community leaders’. They say there is a difference. I say there is not.

    Least, it would be better if we all got together, rather than play the confrontational game?

    Which, it seems to me, has become the power around here, recently.

    Correct me if I am wrong…

  27. Anwar — on 23rd April, 2010 at 11:23 pm  

    Anyway,

    I find all this ‘I am a Muslim’ stuff very very annoying.

    It is exceptionalism, It is uniqueness that is, frankly, stupid.

    It is, frankly an exceptionalism that doesn’t or shouldn’t exist.

    It is an attempt to make a difference between you and me when it doesn’t exist.

    It is what Sunny Hundal said, way, way back about ‘community leaders’. They say there is a difference. I say there is not.

    Least, it would be better if we all got together, rather than play the confrontational game?

    Which, it seems to me, has become the power around here, recently.

    Correct me if I am wrong…

    So says Douglas Clark, a member of the SNP, which campaigns for a separate Scottish identity and a separate Scotland.

  28. douglas clark — on 24th April, 2010 at 3:46 am  

    Sunny,

    Realistically, you ought to be considering some sort of access protocol. It might be a one time sign up or summat, but personal identity ought to be quite important.

    It is to me.

    I detest those folk that pretend to be me,

    Yes I do.

  29. Ravi.Nk — on 24th April, 2010 at 8:17 am  

    Sunny has to sort this sort of identity theft out lest we all become arseholes….

    I would vote to get the new comment system which allowed you to authenticate. Not only would it solve comments being trapped by the spam filter, but also prevent people from stealing your identity.

  30. Sarah AB — on 24th April, 2010 at 8:33 am  

    I agree.

  31. Rumbold — on 24th April, 2010 at 9:26 am  

    Douglas:

    Evil Douglas has now been deleted. Sorry about that.

  32. douglas clark — on 24th April, 2010 at 10:14 am  

    Rumbold,

    Thanks.

    You do an incredibly good job on here.

    Cheers.

  33. douglas clark — on 24th April, 2010 at 10:23 am  

    Anwar @ 27,

    Do you have a problem with that?

    As far as most Scots, and certainly most members of the SNP are concerned, you are Scottish if you say you are. One of our great white hopes (hah!) is an on-line friend of mine called Osama Saeed.

    I can’t vote for him, wrong constituency, but my son and his girlfriend will. Obviously, if I could vote for him, I would.

  34. douglas clark — on 24th April, 2010 at 10:25 am  

    Anwar @ 27,

    Do you have a problem with that?

    As far as most Scots, and certainly most members of the SNP are concerned, you are Scottish if you say you are. One of our great white hopes (hah!) is an on-line friend of mine called Osama Saeed.

    I can’t vote for him, wrong constituency, but my son and his girlfriend will. Obviously, if I could vote for him, I would.

    Please do not assume too much about folk you meet here.

  35. Rumbold — on 24th April, 2010 at 11:02 am  

    Thank you Douglas. I am just sorry we cannot do it quicker.

  36. Jemmy Hope — on 25th April, 2010 at 3:45 pm  

    “Taking the pulse of the UK’s Muslim voters”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s6PIXBTExA

  37. douglas clark — on 25th April, 2010 at 4:04 pm  

    Jemmy Hope @ 35,

    I dislike this assumption that your link shows.

    I do not think that most folk will buy that analysis of race or religion. They are free born people and will vote however they want to.

    The point about voting is that you are free to vote.

    And it is secret.

  38. Jemmy Hope — on 25th April, 2010 at 8:43 pm  

    You might dislike the assumption, Douglas C., but it’s not my assumption. I was merely pointing to a non-British discussion of the Muslim vote. I thought it might be of interest to some.

  39. Sunny — on 25th April, 2010 at 9:07 pm  

    cheers Jemmy, interesting video. Dunno why they give so much prominence to Hizb ut Tahrir though.

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