Elham Asaad Buaras
UKIP and Labour ushered in their first Muslim MEPs last month doubling the tally of Muslim MEPs from two to four.
Manchester Labour Councillor, Afzal Khan, and Amjad Bashir, join incumbent Conservatives Dr Syed Kamall (Leader of the Party in the EU) and Sajjad Karim, who have successfully defended their seats in London and the North West respectively.
In total 30 Muslim candidates stood to become MEPs. Labour fielded 8 Muslim candidates the highest number of any party and more notably, the Conservatives placed 2 of their 3 Muslim candidates in winnable seats.
Unsurprisingly, not one of the five Muslim candidates standing for the Liberal Democrats (all of whom placed lower than third) succeeded in securing a seat in what was the party’s worst European election result for 25 years.
The Lib-Dems, who lost their last Muslim MEP (Karim) to the Tories in 2007, received only 6.9% of votes, down from 13.7% in 2009, leaving them in fifth place behind the Green Party, as they lost seats in every region apart from the South East of England.
UKIP performed powerfully across the UK. It now has MEPs in Scotland, Wales and every region of England (27.5% of the vote, with 23 MEPs). It is the first time since the general election of 1906 that a party other than Labour or the Conservatives has topped a national election. New UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir says his election in Yorkshire and the Humber disproves claims his party is racist. The Leeds businessman was one of three UKIP candidates in the region to win seats.
Bashir is also UKIP Small & Medium Business Spokesman said: “Here I am, of Asian birth, of Asian parentage, Muslim, and I have been selected by this so-called racist party. It disproves that completely. The party (selected me). It was a democratic process where the whole party nationally voted for me. I got the second highest number of votes and, therefore, I was selected for the area. ”
Bu Anti-racism groups have dismissed claims that Bashir’s election vindicates UKIP from accusations of racism.
A spokesman for Stand Up To Racism told The Muslim News, Bashir’s election did “not tell the truth” about UKIP.
He added that UKIP’s character “ is revealed by its policies. UKIP seeks to focus all discontent in society on one issue – foreigners. It has built up its vote by scapegoating immigrants for housing shortages, low wages and unemployment. But even this is a veneer over a much more ugly appeal to racism and xenophobia, which tends to come out in openly prejudiced and racist comments whenever its spokespeople are put under pressure. Despite the election of Amjad Bashir UKIP remains a party whose appeal is based on racism.”
Afzal Khan is not only Labour’s first Muslim MEP (defeating BNP leader, Nick Griffin) but was also Manchester’s youngest and first Muslim and Asian Lord Mayor in 2005.
Khan has worked extensively as a community cohesion advocate for 25 years for which he was awarded a CBE.
Nick Griffin’s campaign literature directly and solely targeted the Muslim community, depicting Muslims as extreme fanatics posing a threat to Britain. It went as far as to say that voters had a choice to either vote for him or else risk the election of a Muslim Labour candidate.
After winning the seat, Khan, said “I cannot be more thankful to everyone who has supported me and voted for Labour. This is a time of real change and I promise that, as your MEP for the North West, I will fight for our region, for more jobs, investment for all our communities and against injustices both here and abroad.”