Who will you vote for?

With only a few weeks left until the General Election 2015, the media is awash with election talk. With all the televised debates and interviews, the same old pledges and contradictory statistics…the coverage is making a lot of people confused about who to vote for. Not everyone of course, many of us have deep rooted alliances with particular parties but despite this it’s worth knowing what your local candidates stand for.

On the other hand whilst I love Russell Brand and agree with a lot of what he says, in reality a revolution in electoral terms will only come if nobody votes, like zero people. As that’s not going to happen we really need to get out there and stop crazy loons from being voted in, mainly I mean UKIP.

First of all for those who think it is unislamic to vote in the UK, do check this video where some scholars have said why it is not only ok to vote but why we must.

Going to the MEND conference a few weeks ago I learnt about how important social justice is in Islam and how it is at the core of being a Muslim. Even before revelation (of the Quran), the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was involved in decisions and events that took place against injustice. The Hilf al-Fudul treaty regarded as the ‘Alliance of Excellence’ was a pact for the Meccans and non-Meccan travellers for fairness and justice, the main point being no one inside or visiting Mecca will be treated unfairly or in an oppressive way. A pact like this was unheard of in the 7th century and it was an alliance that the Prophet was very proud of. Summarising this Tariq Ramadan draws three principles from this:

  • Islam embraces values derived from the human conscience, that are outside of the Islamic tradition. This is because Muhammad (pbuh) had acknowledged a pact before revelation, in the pre-Islamic era.
  • Islam acknowledges the righteousness of non-Muslims. In this case, the non-Muslims had defended justice and the oppressed.
  • Islam, instead of building allegiance to a closed community, requires allegiance to a set of universal principles. The message of Islam is not a closed value system, or at variance or conflict with other value systems.

This really shows us  how important it is for Muslims to take part in society even if that society is non-Muslim.

Whilst most people I know personally are going to vote, I do wonder how much we actually know about the people who we vote for. I am guilty of this, I have no idea what many of the candidates stand for but I’m ready to find out. YourNextMP.com is a great site for finding out about potential candidates, you just need to put your postcode in and all the candidates standing will be displayed.

Every constituency holds hustings which are small gatherings where all the local candidates are invited and anybody can turn up and ask them questions. These are being held as we speak, and if you just search online for your local hustings you should be able to find out the time and venue – some may require prebooking. Different organisations set them up, in fact you can set one up yourself. Then you can meet the candidates and ask them those burning questions that affect your life.

For example as a British Muslim I want to know what the candidates think of foreign policy in the Middle East – if they are an existing MP,did they support the Iraq war? Did they vote for intervention in Syria? Did they vote for an independent Palestinian state? And if they’re not an MP but are hoping to become one, do they support military intervention against ISIS? Do they want to spend your money replacing Trident? On a local level…do they agree that Islamaphobia should be taught in schools alongside anti-semitism and racism? Would they vote to ban the veil if an Early Day Motion came up?

So why does the Muslim vote matter? We may only be 5% of the UK population, but Muslims are densely packed in 50 – 60 towns across the country. In many constituencies if all the Muslims voted for a particular party it would swing the vote the other way, and some of those are target seats for both Labour and Conservative. This matters and politicians should know this, so it’s important you meet the candidates who want to represent you.

Here are some stats from MEND

  • Given the percentage of the population we should have 32 Muslim MPs but currently there are only 8.
  • Average UK voter turnout is 65%, with Muslims it’s 47%.
  • Tories have 80 target seats, 45 of which are 100% of the swing.

The rise of extreme Right-wing parties can be seen across Europe. Fascist and anti-Islam parties are gaining more and more support across France, Germany and other European nations. So even if you hate politics just go to vote against Nigel Farage and his cronies. Please.

A wealth of information can be found on mend.org.uk which are an organisation focused on Muslim development and engagement with society. They have developed getoutandvote.info especially for the election.