By Majed Iqbal- On Sunday night over a hundred people from the Manchester Muslim community attended a panel debate where participants looked into the upcoming elections. The audience were given a lively and vibrant debate where panelists shed light on the much discussed topic of the role of the Muslim community in the upcoming elections.
Prior to the event views have been aired going as far as saying that the outcome of this year’s election rests on the Muslim vote! From this it was argued that it is mandatory (wajib) to vote to ensure that Muslim voter apathy does not end making the situation worse off with anti-Islam policies by the far right parties.
The Manchester based panelists came from a range of Political Backgrounds and had been active in Politics for a number of years. The panel was chaired and hosted by Mohammed Jahangir from the centre for Muslim affairs who opened the discussion at the event.
Dr Abdul Aziz from MAB (Muslim association of Britain) argued that Islam encouraged voting and that in light of the new problems of growing Islamophobia, scholars from the European Muslim Council have pushed that voting is highly recommended to ensure that right wing parties do not take seat with their anti-Islam policies.
Aftab Ahmad, a labour candidate for Longsight said that abstaining from the political process was the wrong way. He argued “in light of the voter apathy in the country, Muslims should come out and vote in numbers. This would ensure there are more Muslim representatives locally as councillers and in parliament as MP’s. This would be real power for real change”
“Silence was not an option. “Instead through politically participating the Muslim community could be represented nationally and have a real say in how the affairs of the country could be run”
Kamal Abu Zahra, a lecturer at Oxford University and currently doing a PHD in the area of Muslim minorities articulated that “Muslims are not allowed to cast their votes for a candidate who will then exercise this mandate on behalf of his/her constituency in Parliament by passing laws”. He detailed that this contravenes Islam directly as Muslims believe that Lawmaking is the right of Allah and cannot be left to the “whims and desires of man”
Shareef Hafezi, member of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain highlighted that “divisive politics which create a labour Muslim, a Lib Dem Muslim and a conservative Muslim are not an option to achieve the interests of the Muslim community”. He argued that secular parties threaten the Muslim community with the rise of the BNP if they don’t vote.
“In fact according to the University of Exeter, a study showed that the rose of Islamophobia was due to mainstream media and Politicians. So why vote these parties back in again?” he asked the packed audience.
He argued for a way for the Muslim community to achieve its interests outside of the political process.
“It was the strong public opinion that was created in South Africa against apartheid that resulted in the collapse of white minority rule. Similarly it was Ghandi through peaceful demonstrations and removing the moral and intellectual justification for British rule in India that resulted in a change of British foreign policy.”
The audience engaged in questions and answers for over an hour with the panelists. Both men and women presented their comments, opinions and questions quizzing the panelists on areas of mainstream party policies, BNP, foreign policy, education, the reasons for the rise of Islamophobia, Europe’s attitude towards the Niqaab and Hijaab and what can be done outside of the Political process.