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The Muslim Vote campaign is poisoning democracy

The cranks and conspiracy theorists it has endorsed do not speak for British Muslims.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Politics UK

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The Muslim Vote (TMV) campaign has attracted a great deal of attention in the build-up to next week’s UK General Election. Seeking to mobilise Britain’s four million Muslim voters, it pledges to support pro-Palestine parliamentary candidates who back an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It is especially keen to inflict electoral harm on Labour MPs who – in TMV’s eyes – have failed to sufficiently condemn Israel for its actions in Gaza.

The cause of Palestinian statehood, insofar as it is rooted in Palestinians’ right to self-determination, is a noble one. Yet too many activists who pose as on the side of the Palestinians seem less interested in Palestine’s independence, or even in criticising Israel’s actual record of mistreating the Palestinians, than in chanting anti-Jewish slogans at protests and peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online.

TMV appears to associate with such people. According to an investigation published by The Sunday Times at the weekend, it has endorsed multiple pro-Palestine candidates with deeply dodgy views. In May, it backed Owais Rajput, the Workers Party of Britain candidate in Leeds. He has labelled Israel supporters ‘cryptoJews’, and accused them of abetting the ‘great satan king in Israhell’. He is far from alone. Others backed by TMV have been responsible for disseminating conspiracy theories, such as that 7 October was an inside job and that the war in Gaza is primarily about oil and gas.

TMV is not just backing dubious candidates; it is also trying to demonise its opponents. It has even denounced Muslims who canvass for Labour as ‘parasites’.

TMV’s willingness to back dubious figures should hardly surprise us. As the Sunday Times investigation reveals, TMV is supported by Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). These two organisations were explicitly named in parliament in March as likely to fall foul of the UK government’s new definition of extremism.

TMV is also associated with Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, a London-based Islamic scholar, who has appeared at TMV events and promoted it online. In January, Haddad shared a video doubting whether Hamas militants committed rape on 7 October, challenging the death toll at the Nova music festival and claiming that Hamas was merciful to its Israeli hostages.

This is the danger of a campaign group like TMV. By promoting a form of militant Muslim identity politics, it inevitably attracts tribal conspiracists and sectarian ideologues.

The TMV’s outlook is also incredibly limited. It has no interest in cultivating meaningful support beyond its particular religio-political milieu. It shows no interest in candidates’ views on economic or social issues, or indeed on anything beyond their attitudes to Israel. Many TMV-endorsed politicians may challenge Labour MPs on the matter of Palestine, but they have little to say on broader social issues. Take Labour’s ludicrous positions on trans rights, which defy biological reality and threaten female-only spaces. This has dismayed both Muslims and feminists alike, but TMV has shown no interest in taking Labour to task for this. No doubt Muslim voters would also like questions about the role of faith in society, the breakdown of the family or the increasing atomisation of Britain to be debated in this election.

The problem with TMV is that while it chimes with mainstream British Muslim opinion in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, it also goes much further than that by fraternising with bigoted conspiracy theorists. What’s more, it fails to represent the views of British Muslims on just about everything else. This is largely because British Muslims are not a monolithic bloc. They comprise diverse opinions and even religious beliefs.

TMV claims that it wants to ‘reinvigorate the spirit of democracy’ and tackle ‘dirty politics’. Given some of the parliamentary candidates it has endorsed, and the figures it associates with, such claims ring hollow. TMV is not encouraging greater democratic engagement. It is spreading division and further poisoning public life.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK

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