There is a great mismatch between how Muslims see Muslim MPs and what the MPs see as their role
In light of the recent parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage that saw five of the eight Muslims in parliament reportedly vote in favour many in the community are asking what and who do Muslim MPs stand for? These are important questions firstly, as Muslim MPs specifically canvass the Muslim vote, and secondly because Muslim MPs are seen by some as local leaders representing the views of Muslims, especially in Muslim dominated constituencies.
Talk to some Muslims and the answer is obvious. Muslim MPs stand for Muslims. They represent Muslim interests at the highest levels of government – in parliament and some even hold a seat on the cabinet. At the constituency level, Muslims think Muslim MPs will assist with local issues such the application for the extension of the town mosque.
Ask non-Muslims about what Muslim MPs stand for and the answers are less clear. Some argue that an MP’s religion should have little or no bearing on what he/she stands for as we live in a secular society. Any reference to religion, if one were to exist, should be from a Christian perspective since this a Christian country they would suggest. Some non-Muslims strongly believe that a Muslim MP has to represent all his/her constituents irrespective of their religion; to do anything less would be a betrayal of their office.
What do the Muslim MPs say about themselves? Scanning the biographies of the current intake of Muslim MPs on their official websites reveals individuals driven by political ambition and heritage, most emphasise their education, career and professional achievements with little or no reference to Islam.
There is therefore a great mismatch between how Muslims see Muslim MPs and what the MPs see as their role. With widespread disgust in the community at Muslim MPs not condemning gay marriage, Muslims must seriously question the leadership role accorded by some to the Muslim MPs when these MPs did not stand up for the values of Islam.
Recent surveys show trust in MPs is at record low levels, which is unsurprising given the MPs expenses scandal, MPs involvement with media moguls responsible phone hacking and the recent conviction of Chris Huhne MP for perverting the course of justice. Muslims like to think Muslim MPs will be a cut above the rest because of Islam. For some all they simply had to do was vote no to gay marriage even though it is well known that any gay relations are categorically forbidden and not a matter of choice in Islam. However, when Muslim MPs not only failed to stand for fundamental values of Islam but most actually promoted something that Islam judges abhorrent trusting them to be leaders in the community is dangerous.
Muslim MP’s support for same sex marriage legislation has damaged the community and its role of safeguarding Islam for future generations and its important goal of promoting Islam to the wider society. It is right that the community is accounting Muslim MPs. Yet we have to accept this is a shamefully painful moment for the community and particularly those Muslims who endorsed and voted for these Muslim parliamentary candidates at the last general election.
At the same time, we, as a community, need learn from these episodes to not make the same mistakes again. The democratic system means the people – through their elected members of Parliament – chose what is good or bad, moral or immoral, based on a majority vote. There are no principles or criteria for what is right and wrong, it depends on the mood within society at any particular time. This is because this is a political system where man makes the law. The source of the problem thus lies in the system of man making legislation when the right to legislate lies with Allah (swt) alone.
Allah says, “The rule is to none but Allah.” [TMQ 6:57]
We need to wholeheartedly submit to this ruling, abandon the evidently wasted efforts of sending Muslims to parliament and find better and more productive ways to positively engage in society to promote Islam and secure our rights.
This doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from politics or bury our head in the sand. Muslims need to leverage the huge financial, intellectual and professional wealth we are sitting on and ensure that we engage in a form of grass-roots politics that betters our communities, presents a shining example to the wider society and delivers the true and unique message of Islam. This is a better form of politics than relying on self-serving politicians (Muslim or otherwise) who have no interest in Islam and are only interested in furthering their own careers.