The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) wants Muslims, who make up a sizeable proportion of Brent’s population, to vote for the anti-war Liberal Democrat candidate in a by-election on Thursday.

The crucial poll, which was called following the death of the Labour member of parliament for the area, is being seen as a test of Tony Blair’s popularity following the war on Iraq.

Ihtishan Hibatullah, MAB chief media officer, said: “Two million people demonstrated against the Iraq war in February and the message we sent to the government was 'Listen to us now or listen to us when elections come around.'"

Anti-war

He added: “The majority of Brent’s residents are against the war and there are enough Muslims in the constituency to really make a difference. That's why we are urging them to support the Lib Dems.”

“Two million people demonstrated against the Iraq war in February and the message we sent to the government was 'Listen to us now or listen to us when elections come around.'"

Ihtishan Hibatullah,  
Muslim Association of Britain

But despite the MAB's opposition to the Labour candidate, Hibatullah said he was not urging Muslims to wash their hands of the Labour party.

 

“More than 200 MPs opposed the war, including honourable Labour men like George Galloway, so we are not opposing the Labour Party. We just want to send a signal to the right-wing war mongers in the party,” he said.

 

Political analysts expect Labour to suffer a slump - or even its first by-election defeat since coming to power in May 1997 - when the ballots are counted in Brent East.

 

Divided nation

 

It is the first by-election in Britain since February 2002, and the first since Blair led a divided nation into the US-led war on Iraq.

 

Labour's candidate, Robert Evans, is facing a stiff challenge from Sarah Teather of the Liberal Democrats.  

 

Polls are to remain open until 2100 GMT on Thursday, with final results not expected until the early hours of Friday.