The General Elections are coming in 2015 and, as always, a maelstrom of propaganda will suffuse the country when the left-wing and the right-wing wage war to win over the British public. There will be great promises raising false hopes and new dawns that turn will into a total eclipse resulting in a strong sense of political apathy from the public and people choosing the lesser of two evils of the political parties.
One intriguing question is where the Muslim vote will go with the main choices being Green Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives. Like the rest of the public, British Muslims will vote according to which party is interested in improving their social conditions and facilitating the values they live by. Largely from working-class backgrounds, many of whom have immigrant origins, they fall into the sections of the ethnic minority and low-income earners – a marginalised group who may find security and social tolerance in parties like Labour, the LibDems and Green Party.
Labour has traditionally been a popular choice for immigrants and unsurprisingly, British Muslims. Working-class areas with high populations of ethnic minorities have often been largely drawn to Labour because they are portrayed as the socialists who fight for the poor, favour wealth distribution, improve public utilities and believe in a regulated market. Worryingly though, these areas have become ‘safe seats’ – areas where Labour Party’s power is firmly entrenched and they’re unlikely to be cast out of power. Even when Labour angered Muslims and the rest of the country with the Iraq War, they still remained a far more appealing choice than the Tories. Their policies, however, have greatly affected young British Muslims, as it was Labour who created the counter-terrorism laws that breached civil liberties in the cases of many Muslims after 9/11 as well as allowing the US to take British Muslims to Guantanamo Bay. In addition to this, Labour legislated the highly controversial ASBO Act, a disastrous bill designed to curb antisocial behaviour.
The Tories on the other hand have dramatically diminished in appeal with austerity measures and welfare cuts. This has never been a party working for the interests of the poor, immigrants, disabled or women and it’s now evident that this isn’t a party for ordinary British Muslims. In their bid to tackle Islamic radicalisation, the Tories have exacerbated the problem with their anti-immigration and anti-Muslim actions. Do the Tories expect Muslims to be fervently patriotic when they speculate banning the niqab or consider closing regulated mosques and madrassahs? Hearing Boris Johnson blame parents for radicalisation perpetuates the image that the Tories are disinterested in the real concerns of British Muslims.
The Tory’s have been rather hasty in their approach to tackling extremism ranging from censoring the internet, suppressing Islamic societies within universities and tracking British citizens travelling abroad; all these are not long-term solutions. Helping Muslims integrate on a local level is a better vision which has been identified by Labour MP Hazel Blears who warned that this isn’t happening. The implications of too many young Muslims becoming alienated are that their attachment to British society diminishes and the potential of extremism continues to grow. To these radicalised youths, the Western culture appears as different to theirs as the sun is to the moon.
Dangerously, these issues have also fed Islamophobia. Hatred of Muslims has considerably grown over the years and come to be physically embodied by the English Defence League. What’s worse is that with much of the conservative media radiating an anti-Muslim bias, chilling incidents like that of Lee Rigby’s murder or Asian paedophile gangs have become symbols of threats posed by a marginalised minority. Racism in many senses becomes endowed with a sense of legitimacy, as if hating Muslims is done for the national good. A common symptom of the recent economic recession is the rise in far-right politics spreading fear, prejudice and blinded patriotism against other social groups like wildfire. The Nazis did it when they blamed Jews for their economic depression and similarly the British right is using an economic decline caused by bankers to launch an attack on the welfare system and Britain’s immigration policy.
At its fundamental core, the Islamic identity is economically a centre-left ideology. As a religion Islam endorses social cooperation, equality and fraternity to create a community spirit; that being said, there is a distinct boundary between its belief in social justice and classic socialism. Nevertheless, though many Muslims will vote in accordance to their social conditions, they need to ask themselves whether their religious beliefs are compatible with the Conservative policies and whether it’s compatible with the politics of today. Britain toils under corporate fascism. Globalisation has empowered big businesses with the leverage of paying poverty wages and offering zero-hour contracts while they exploit tax loopholes whilst being fully aware that governments won’t stop them in fear of losing investments into the economy.
The Green Party with its fundamental values however shares much with the Islamic philosophy. This is an eco-socialist party with strong principles on social and environmental justice. In the class war it’s the Green Party who fights for the poor – something Labour surrendered in 1997. The Green Party offer social equality through the guarantee of living wages and progressive taxation, public utilities, regulated market and prevention of corporate exploitation of tax loopholes. All of this while they invest in renewable energies to create a sustainable society that would preserve other species and humanity’s long-term survival.
Young Muslims would be comfortable with the Green Party, both socially and economically. This is the only party that rejects tuition fees and would happily scrap it, although such a bill appears difficult to legislate now. It is also the Green Party who opposes the privatisation of NHS and welfare cuts.
What betrays them is that this is a party who have been as quiet as a falling leaf in the media. They’re seen by Labour voters as a risk in defeating the Tories. Ultimately, politics is about the lesser of two evils. It’s not just about picking who you believe in; it’s also about picking who you believe will stop the other party from winning. British Muslims, as well as the country’s working class, would be at an advantage with the Green Party but as always Labour will most likely be the tried-and-tested choice they will seek.