United for Change: How Muslims Came Together in Elections & Humanitarian Efforts

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    Last week’s local elections showed that the Muslim protest vote against Labour was successful. Its candidates lost traditional labour seats. Therefore, the Muslim protest vote must be taken seriously by Labour and Conservatives. But will it shake up the established order? Will they take Muslim votes seriously? Here I present the case that the elections have shown that the Muslims had the moral high ground, they stood up for a humanitarian cause, for their brothers and sisters in Gaza. And they’ll do this again for oppressed people anywhere in the world, InshaAllah.

    Contrary to what many politicians and social commentators say, I believe Muslims are well integrated into British society. The third and fourth generation of British Muslims speak English, support local football teams, wear designer clothes and enjoy fish and chips.

    How strong are Muslim relations?

    A healthy integration, which will produce good British citizens depends on a community that has self-confidence and self-respect. We cannot accept the assimilation model whereby Muslims are expected to lose their religious distinctiveness and adopt a ‘British’ way of life (whatever that might mean). We believe Islam is not only good for Muslims but good for Britain. The concept of a united community is critical, Allah says in The Majestic Quran: “And hold the rope of Allah together, and do not be divided. Remember Allah’s favour, you were enemies, and He united your hearts and by His grace you became brothers. You were on the brink of hellfire, and He rescued you. Allah shows His signs so, you may be guided” (Surah Ale Imran: 103).

    The themes of community, unity and strong social relationships are common in Islamic teachings. The five daily prayers are a good example, the value and reward of prayer is multiplied twenty-seven times when praying in a congregation. Spiritual gatherings of divine remembrance, the Friday congregation, and the festivals of Eid open with congregational prayer. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) encouraged people to eat together and share meals with friends and neighbours. Allama Iqbal, the poet of Punjab eloquently sums up the value of living as a community in this couplet: “A soul finds its being in the heart of the community, as a wave claims its force in the ocean’s unity”.

    Every human being wants to be part of a community, to be part of something bigger than themself. I hasten to add that this does not mean that Islam opposes autonomy and free choice. These are fundamental human rights in Islam. However, Islam teaches Muslims to acquire self-mastery over their egos, so they do not become self-centred and greedy animals. The Quran describes the disciples’ community spirit as follows: “Although they are needy themselves, they prefer others over themselves. And whoever can protect himself from being greedy is successful” (Al Hashr: 9).

    The Muslim Community

    The emphasis on rituals and customs that are full of wisdom is to create a communal place and time where people can gather and share their beliefs, devotions and life goals. The daily congregation, Friday prayer, funeral services and so forth reinforce the sense of the Muslim community. It helps create a collective identity based on faith. It is true that in doing so, we exclude others, but that in no way means we are ‘less British’ than others. To me, this shows that we have multiple identities.

    Muslims have created their own ‘comfort zones’, where they’re happy. They have a clear sense of community; they feel secure. The Muslim community is not a monolingual, monochrome, monocultural or homogeneous community. It is a multicultural society. In my mosque in Nottingham, I have people from more than a dozen nationalities, speaking various languages. This underscores the richness of our mosque’s diversity, starkly contrasting with Britain’s composition of just four nations; English, Scots, Irish and Welsh. How united are they, truly?

    The social capital of any nation is measured by the strength of the connections among people, the health of the family unit, trust, mutual understanding and shared values. This is what binds the members of the community and makes cooperative action possible. The Muslim community has social cohesion, Alhamdulillah.

    What must the Muslims do?

    As a faith group with great internal diversity, we must build strong connections with other communities. At Karimia Institute we are working with local Muslim communities from all over the world including Africa, Afghanistan, Syria etc and others. We need more contact, formal and informal with other communities, as this will reduce mutual ignorance and hostility. Muslims must diminish the fears of the wider society. How? By building better relations with neighbours. But more importantly, better public relations through well-trained spokespersons.

    Psychologists call this ‘contact theory’. This explains the effects that different kinds of interaction have on people’s attitudes towards others. The more contact people have with each other, the lesser the effects of stereotypes and prejudices. Open days, cross-cultural awareness workshops, sports and arts events all are powerful tools for combating ignorance and discrimination.

    Back to the election

    Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding citizens who work incredibly hard. Therefore, we deserve better representation by our politicians, leaders, and the media. Currently, we are unfairly treated by the media, politicians and public agencies. Muslim voters used their democratic right to register their protest by not voting for Labour or the Tories, a clear sign of political maturity. Nationally, there are 45-plus parliamentary seats where the Muslim vote could be decisive to the general election outcome. The winning of these seats would be critical to Labour’s prospects of forming the next government.

    The Muslim protest vote also showed that Muslims care about humanitarian issues, they strongly condemn the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Where are the British stalwarts of human rights? Wasn’t Starmer a human rights lawyer? Why can’t they speak up? It appears the world has lost its conscience. But Muslims are proudly holding to the values of justice and kindness. A proud moment. Some claim this signals a new dawn in Muslim politics in the UK. What this means in real politics is anyone’s guess.