Parties urged not to “scapegoat” Muslims during general election campaigns

The Muslim Council of Britain has urged political leaders to resist the “urge to scapegoat Muslims and minorities” and not to use them as “punchbags” during upcoming general election campaigns.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a general election on July 4th with Keir Starmer’s Labour Party widely considered the favourites to form the next government. 

The campaign is expected to put candidates under intense scrutiny over their stances on Israel’s genocide in Gaza, especially for Muslim voters. 

Widespread criticism persists over the UK’s continued arms exports to Israel despite the ongoing violence, as well as frustration over the Labour Party’s delayed support for calls for a ceasefire. 

The Muslim Council of Britain has called for a campaign of mutual “respect and kindness.”

“I urge our political parties and all those seeking our votes to pursue a campaign that is hopeful: to resist the urge to scapegoat Muslims and minorities and proposing a future where all Britons can play a positive role,” Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said.

“The call comes in a year where we have seen politicians and their supportive media double down on their rhetoric against Muslims: casting them as the enemy within and questioning their right to play an equal part in our democracy.

“As the General Election campaign begins in earnest, we urge politicians and the media to resist the temptation of using Muslims as a punching bag to score cheap political points. Such actions are reprehensible and must be firmly rejected to foster an inclusive environment that respects all communities,”

Despite leading the Conservatives in the polls, some Labour officials worry their lead is shakier than it seems, with potential backlash in many Labour constituencies over the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Palestine. 

Recent election turnout

While Labour made gains across England in the local elections, it suffered key losses in areas with large Muslim populations.

In 58 council wards analysed by the BBC, where over 20% of residents are Muslim, Labour’s vote share was down 21% compared to 2021.

“British Muslim communities are diverse, yet there are common issues that affect us all. There is no doubt that the ongoing atrocities in Gaza is foremost on our mind. And Muslim communities are united with the majority of Britons in ending the killings, wanting their government to uphold international law and affirm Palestinian statehood,” said Mohammed.

The MCB also pointed to various domestic issues the community will consider when deciding their votes.

“These include combatting all forms of racism, including the adoption of a definition on Islamophobia. It also involves defending religious liberty, and ensuring safety at places of worship,” said Mohammed. 

Other issues included engaging Muslim communities, addressing health disparities, supporting refugees, fair press standards and ethical foreign policy. 

“We look forward to a campaign that addresses these crucial issues and leads to a fairer, more inclusive Britain,” added Mohammed. 

The Muslim Vote

The Muslim advocacy group The Muslim Vote said on X that the election was a “chance to change the Status Quo.”

“Punish this Tory-Labour duopoly. And fix our democracy,” it said in a tweet. In another post, it said it was targeting 103 seats.

Following Labour’s poor showing with Muslim voters in the local election, the group issued 18 demands to Starmer so the party could regain support from the community.

The key demand related to the Palestinian issue. The group wants Starmer to apologise for initially backing Israeli actions, support sanctions on companies operating in West Bank settlements, recognise Palestinian statehood and cut military ties with Israel. 

Other requests include allowing prayer in schools and making Shariah-compliant student loans and pensions more available. 

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