Muslim groups divided on UK polls

Some Muslim groups are urging members of their community to make their vote count in Britain's upcoming general election, but other organisations are telling voters to stay away from the polls.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair is campaigning across the country

    Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) UK, a Muslim group active across Britain, has launched a campaign urging British Muslims not to participate in the elections in May.


    Imran Waheed, media representative for Hizb ut–Tahrir UK, told "Part of the campaign is urging Muslims not to vote, as the existing political process and politics have brought false promises that harm our community.


    "From an Islamic legislative perspective - as Muslims we can't participate in the British political system."


    Waheed highlighted key issues such as the war on Iraq and anti-terror legislation that he says are harmful to the Muslim community.


    The group, also known as HT, works throughout the Muslim world to re-establish the khilafah (caliphate), or Islamic form of government.


    "We are not against the election process because in Islam you can elect the head of a Muslim state – the khilafah – but you cannot vote to support a non-Islamic political party whose agenda is not in the best interests of the Muslim community," Waheed said.


    'Focused, not futile'


    "We need to stand for Islam and build an Islamic community that is focused, not futile," he said.


    "It is not for man to make his own decisions, when divine laws have already been set in stone in the Sharia"

    Mohammad Ali,
    information technology engineer

    As Blair continues his tour of the country trying to garner votes for the 5 May elections, it appears he will struggle to persuade many Muslims to cast their vote.


    Mohammad Ali, an information technology engineer from London, said: "I won't be voting this year because I think it is not for man to make legislative decisions, when divine laws have already been set in stone in the Sharia.


    "If there are new laws, then we need to turn to ijtihad – and take a strong look at what has been said in the Quran and Sunnah [teachings of the Prophet Muhammad]."


    Trusted scholars, not elected representatives, should act on behalf of the Muslim community, Ali said.


    Religious obligation


    Another group urged Muslims in the United Kingdom to be politically active, calling it a religious duty.


    "By disengaging in the political process, Muslims stand to lose out"

    Ihtisham Hibatullah,
    Muslim Association of Britain

    The Muslim Association for Britain (MAB) is
    encouraging Muslim voters to cast their votes wisely and for candidates rather than parties.


    Ihtisham Hibatullah of the MAB told "We have been calling on UK Muslims to engage politically because this is their homeland. Any issues that are of concern to Muslims need to be exercised through their voter power.


    "By disengaging in the political process, Muslims stand to lose out."


    The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) has put out a Platform Issues Guide to help Muslims vote in the upcoming elections.


    "We published the guide because we felt British Muslims are not fully aware of the huge variety of issues out there," Muddassar Ahmed, MPACUK spokesperson, said.


    Ahmed derided the call to boycott the elections, saying of the Hizb ut-Tahrir: "They are in the minority opinion and are never going to become mainstream, because Muslims are taking a more practical way forward."


    Shifting loyalties


    About 1.1 million Muslims in Britain are eligible to vote.


    Opposition to the war in Iraq has
    turned voters away from Labour

    Hibatullah said Muslims were a group traditionally supportive of Labour because the party appeared to be more concerned with Muslim issues.


    He said that although Labour is most likely to win the 2005 elections, there are indications that the party will have a substantially reduced majority because of the implementation of anti-terror legislation and anger over the war in Iraq.


    "We have been advising the Muslim community to look at issues of concern such as the anti-terror law, war on Iraq, education, health, stance on Palestine before casting their votes," Hibatullah said.


    Join the system


    Khalid Mahmood, a Labour member of parliament and one of only two Muslim MPs in the country, said: "If you are not happy with the way things are done, then join Labour and change it from within.


    "It is about time that the Muslim voters need to wake up and use the power they have in this democratic state"

    Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP

    "It is about time that the Muslim voters need to wake up and use the power they have in this democratic state."


    But Waheed disagrees: "You don't have to vote or join a mainstream political party to be politically active. You can stand up and speak from the outside.


    Waheed said voting every four or five years relegates personal responsibility from the community.


    "The Muslim community can do a lot if they become politically active – but they need to follow an Islamic agenda and understand where their real interests lie."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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