This is a cross-post from Roshan Muhammed Salih, who is very proud to work for Press TV
By Roshan Muhammed Salih in London
The upcoming UK general election, predicted to take place on May 6, could be a seminal moment for the British Muslim community.
By some estimates the United Kingdom’s 2 million Muslims could influence up to 100 marginal seats. And in a closely fought election where the marginals are predicted to decide the outcome, that could swing the balance of power.
So either British Muslims can prove there is such a thing as a “Muslim vote”, thereby sending a clear message to politicians that there will be a price to pay if they get trampled over. Or they can remain divided, vote according to trivial self-interest and thus open the door to further Islamophobia at home and crusading wars abroad.
Here’s what I’m proposing:
Firstly, British Muslims should punish those MPs who voted for the genocidal Iraq war, who support the current aggression in Afghanistan, and who backed the discriminatory anti-terror laws which target Muslims in the UK. If they do this politicians will think twice about doing the same again because their jobs will be at stake.
A campaign is already underway in northern England to unseat the pro-war Labour candidate Phil Woolas, who presides over a constituency in Oldham with a large Muslim population.
Next door to Woolas, in Blackburn, is Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary at the time of the 2003 Iraq invasion. He also presides over a large Muslim constituency and has been continually returned to power with their support.
Now for all I know, Straw may well be a good constituency MP who has helped launch Islamic schools and other institutions. But every single election issue, including the economy, education and health, pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands who wouldn’t have died in Iraq had the British and Americans not invaded. And by his own admission, Straw could have stopped the UK’s involvement in that war.
So I have one thing to say to those Muslims in Blackburn who are again contemplating voting for this man. Are your community institutions and your personal comfort more important than the hundreds of thousands of your brothers and sisters Straw helped to kill? If you believe that is the case you should hang your heads in shame.
And of course there are other Labour warmongers with tiny majorities in large Muslim areas who deserve to be targeted. Tony McNulty in Harrow and Jim Fitzpatrick in Poplar and Canning Town to name but two.
Secondly, Muslims should reward those MPs who opposed the government’s wars, whichever party they belong to. Although I am not a fan of any political party it seems obvious to me that Respect is the least worst choice. And some of their candidates, like George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob, are tireless defenders of Muslims at home and abroad who deserve our backing. But there are honorable members of all parties who also fall into that category.
And thirdly, if every candidate in your constituency is a lost cause then you should register a protest vote by spoiling your ballot rather than just stay at home. A spoilt ballot is still counted and makes a bigger statement than not bothering to turn up. The likes of Straw and Woolas would love people to opt out of the democratic process because that means we have no power to unseat them.
Now I know that the plan I’ve just outlined is effectively an appeal for a Muslim lobby in Britain akin to the ever so effective pro-Israeli one in the United States. In other words, an attempt to make a minority community punch above its weight and exert disproportionate influence.
This plan will attract accusations of divisiveness. It will be castigated by the self-styled moderate or secular Muslims who want to protect their privileges and whose concern for their fellow believers is limited to say the least. The right-wing media will use it as proof that Muslims are pursuing a narrow self-interest agenda with the overall welfare of the country a distant second.
And I fully acknowledge and share these concerns, but what is the alternative? For the government to continue ignoring Muslim grievances, pursue their warmongering abroad and criminalizing of Muslims at home?
The way I see it is that we have the power to do something that will benefit Muslims in this country and our brothers and sisters abroad. But that admittedly self-interested agenda does not conflict with the wider British interest – it will make Britain a better place internally and will enhance its reputation abroad. So let’s go for it.