Muslims in Scotland flex electoral muscle
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.
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
partys "racist" policies.
The Muslim community is traditionally among Labours strongest supporters,
but organisers of the Lothian Muslim Voting Committee say the partys 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 committees 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.
"Theres also David Blunketts 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 thats 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. Its 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 Straws 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 Partys top-up list, welcomed the
committees 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. Im 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 dont think this groups 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.