Muslim voters are being urged to play an active and positively influential role at the forthcoming General Elections in Britain that will decide the next government and parliament until 2020.
In what has become a tradition, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is encouraging Imams and mosques to persuade the British Muslim community to engage fully in the country’s democratic processes and to cast their votes on May 7.
Mosques were reminded to tell congregations on the significance of voter registration and voter turn-out as an important civic responsibility. Elections are unique opportunities for a renewed national conversation on matters closest to the heart of various sections of British society.
As part of the initiative, the MCB also published a document entitled Fairness, Not Favours that highlights issues affecting the community and suggests ten key commitments that prospective Parliamentary candidates can be challenged on.
Issues include defending the right of Muslims along with people of all religions to live their faith, to effectively combat Islamophobia like all forms of racism, uphold civil liberties and to rebuild trust with communities when tackling crime and terrorism.
The importance of education was also stressed with the development of an inclusive National Curriculum that reflects diverse religious, ethnic and cultural identity, addressing structural economic and social inequalities that prevent minority communities. There is also the issue of an ethical and consistent UK foreign policy as well as support for a binding recognition of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state.
“Political engagement through voting is not a luxury – it is a necessity. When we register to vote and turn out on polling day, the politicians take note. This means they become more responsive to the needs and views of all sections of their constituency,” MCB’s manifesto said.
“It is our opportunity to counter the rise of racist and Islamophobic far right political parties, whose supporters are more likely to turn out and vote, and thus secure their position.”
The document identified constituencies throughout Britain where Muslims can make a difference in their vote, including where there was a Muslim population of 20% or more as well as several marginal constituencies with a sizeable Muslim presence.
Amongst others, a manifesto has also been issued by Mend (Muslim Engagement & Development) which works towards enhancing the active engagement of British Muslim communities in national life, particularly in the fields of politics and the media.
Pledges are further called for from candidates in a whole range of policy areas, including Islamophobia and racial/religious equality, Muslim youth and education, employment and labour market participation, integration and community cohesion, minority rights, counter terrorism and civil liberties, crime and policing, international affairs and human rights promotion abroad.
Nearly half of Muslims are under 24. Making up 4.8% of the UK population, they represent the second largest faith group in the UK after Christians. At the last elections British Muslims had the highest number of first time voters in the 2010. Mend suggested that given the young age profile of the community, the same is likely to be the case in the 2015 general election.