“Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” – Robert Byrne
Campaigning is in full flow as Thursday 22nd May hosts not only the local council elections but also the European election. Councillors, seemingly beyond reach for years are now parading the streets, frequenting local businesses and religious establishments, reminding the people of their ever-availability to voice every disgruntled concern.
Unlike previous years, the current campaign has seen a surge in a number of unsavoury groups ranging from UKIP and BNP to EDL and the “mosque invaders” of Britain First. The recent ComResi/ITV News Poll put support for UKIP at 38% with the Tories trailing on 18%. With the perceived threat of all things Islam high on the right-wing agenda, Muslims are tempted to participate in the elections and exercise damage control with one hope: vote for the mainstream parties to keep the fringe elements at bay. But how will this fare for Muslims?
“People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that at Sunday school, but it’s true.” – Richard Nixon
Even a cursory analysis of the growing anti-Islamic environment points to the British population being manipulated first and foremost by the traditional mainstream parties followed by prominent media personalities. It is the relentless use of loaded language associating Islamic practices with fearful narratives that has created the fertile environment in which bigoted movements have grown. The niqab issue and the media circus that followed grooming gangs were initiated by Jack Straw’s comments. David Cameron suddenly felt the need to remind everyone that Britain is a ‘Christian country’. Michael Gove stood as the first line of defence against the alleged “Trojan horse” Islamic schools takeover plot. It was in fact the BBC who were the first media outlet to break the story. Melanie Philips warned against the “Islamification” of Britain. Even the Liberal Democrats found common ground with Theresa May as they worked to place the equivalent of ASBO’s on conservative Islamic speakers or stop them from entering the UK altogether, as we saw with Dr Zakir Naik. Mainstream politicians clambered over themselves, after the death of Lee Rigby, to call on Muslims to root out a problem that they claimed had grown out of mosques and maddrasas. The Con-Dem government confirmed this view through the publication of the report in the wake of Lee Rigby’s death, “Tackling Radicalisation in UK” December 2013 report.
Jim Fitzpatrick the Labour MP was the first to complain about segregated seating at a Muslim wedding he was invited to. He and his wife later stormed out making his views very clear to the wider mainstream press. Later when the Universities UK issued a recommendation that accommodated voluntary segregated seating at Islamic society events, David Cameron waded into the debate believing it should not be allowed. The UUK were then forced to rethink its guidelines. Terrorism and Islam became interchangeable in Tony Blair’s speeches, with his then Home Secretary Charles Clark reinforcing the idea that mainstream Islamic ideas of Shariah, Ummah and Khilafah were the precursors to terrorist attacks.
It’s the mainstream political parties that have ploughed, watered and fertilised the field from which far right groups have grown out of. Despite this, campaigners plea that if Muslims don’t vote for the same parties who have developed the anti-Islamic environment, then the right-wing Islamophobes will get into power! The politics of fear banks on the fact that presenting Muslims with an alleged threat to their well-being will elicit a powerful emotional response that can override reason and prevent a critical assessment of government policies particularly foreign policy. The united stance by all parties against Islam is not coincidental but part of a wider ideological attack that transcends party allegiances due to the shared beliefs in the core ideas of secular liberal capitalism. These very values form the basis of an aggressive foreign policy that’s then prosecuted in the Muslim world under the euphemism ‘British national interests’.
Bearing this in mind, Muslims must consider a fresh approach; to vote and continue to have faith in the mainstream system is to simply feed the problem. Muslims must disengage and develop a grassroots alternative to the capitalist run political system, exhausting all halal avenues to counter the government narrative with the pure Islamic concepts.
It’s through developing an Islamic community that then stands as ambassadors to Islam, presenting the correct Islamic views and contrasting this to the rotten culture of capitalism which is harmful to all, can the Muslims begin to counter the demonisation of Islam. Through this direct engagement the toxic atmosphere that allows BNP, EDL or Britain First can be countered thus diminishing their appeal.
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” [Quran TMQ 16:125]