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Muslims in Scotland flex electoral muscle

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, Here is some positive news from faraway Scotland where the Muslim community seems to be taking serious stock of its electoral strength and putting it
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 25, 2003

      Here is some positive news from faraway Scotland where the Muslim community
      seems to be taking serious stock of its electoral strength and putting it to
      good use. They are targeting supporters of the invasion of Iraq and working
      to defeat them.

      The Scottish Muslims are setting a new standard for all of us to emulate,
      one that does not follow the tradition set by US Muslim groups like CAIR and
      ISNA who worked vigorously to elect George Bush.

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      Labour facing Muslim protest

      By Ian Swanson
      Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland

      MUSLIMS in Edinburgh are being urged to target their votes to oust Labour
      MSPs [Member of Scottish Parliament] in protest at the war in Iraq and the
      party’s "racist" policies.

      The Muslim community is traditionally among Labour’s strongest supporters,
      but organisers of the Lothian Muslim Voting Committee say the party’s recent
      record has left many frustrated and disillusioned. And they are calling on
      Muslims to make a concerted effort to vote out Labour candidates at the
      elections on May 1.

      They are recommending a vote for the SNP in the five Labour-held Edinburgh
      seats, a vote for sitting Liberal Democrat Margaret Smith in Edinburgh West
      and a vote for the Scottish Socialist Party on the regional list. Leaflets
      urging Muslims to follow the committee’s recommendations are being handed
      out in city mosques, shops and restaurants.

      And members of the Muslim community are being urged to discuss the issue
      with friends and relatives.

      Abdul Ibrahem, chairman of the committee, said there were more than 10,000
      Muslims in Lothian and claimed their votes could be crucial.

      He said: "About 90 per cent of the Muslim community in Edinburgh and
      Scotland vote Labour and have always voted Labour . But that has changed .
      They detest Labour. They are angry about Iraq, the total lack of concern
      about the Palestinian issue and a lack of concern about our feelings.

      "There’s also David Blunkett’s racist statements about Asians speaking
      English in their own homes and their policies on asylum seekers, which are
      just playing to the right." Mr Ibrahem said the committee would not even
      back Labour candidates who had come out against the war.

      "Any vote for Labour is a vote of confidence in Tony Blair," he said. "More
      important than who we are voting for is who we are voting against." And he
      added: "Tony Blair said recently he was ready to resign if the Commons had
      voted against him on the war. We are saying to him there is a higher
      authority than the Commons - and that’s the voters."

      The committee was formed within the past few weeks after Mr Ibrahem, who
      works as a financial adviser in Marchmont, called a meeting to discuss the
      elections. He said: "We are a group of Muslims who got together to advise
      people how to use their vote. It’s the first time this has happened anywhere
      in Britain, but we hope to transfer it to other areas in the future.

      "One of our targets will be Jack Straw’s seat. There is a huge Muslim
      community there who helped give him a big majority. We hope to persuade them
      to vote for someone else."

      The committee makes no recommendations about voting in council elections,
      but their intervention could spark an anti-Labour backlash there too. Colin
      Fox, number one on the Scottish Socialist Party’s top-up list, welcomed the
      committee’s call for Muslims to give their second vote to the SSP.

      "This is hugely significant," he said. "The Muslim community are among the
      most loyal supporters of Labour, but now they feel betrayed. I’m delighted
      they are putting their trust in the SSP as a consequence of our stance on
      the war ."

      But the call to vote against Labour was criticised by Jalal Chaudry, the
      Edinburgh and East of Scotland representative on the Muslim Council of
      Britain, who is also vice-chairman of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh Labour

      He admitted Muslims were angry over Iraq, but argued some Labour politicians
      had made a stand against the war. And he said: "We say people should vote
      according to their conscience, but not make a campaign of it."

      A Labour spokesman claimed they had not picked up any backlash against the
      war among Muslims.

      "Jack McConnell has made a number of non-media visits to mosques across
      Scotland and has always received a good welcome," said the spokesman. "Many
      people recognise that faced with difficult decisions Tony Blair acted in the
      best interests of Britain and the international community. We are finding
      more and more people are recognising that was the right thing to do and are
      backing that approach."

      And Shami Khan, of the Pakistan Society in Edinburgh and a Labour council
      candidate, claimed most Muslims now accepted the war was over and it was
      time to move on.

      He said: "I don’t think this group’s call is going to make any difference."

      But an SNP spokesman welcomed the move for Muslims to vote against Labour.
      "Like so many others, these voters have recognised a sense of failure in the
      direction of Labour," he said.
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