The British election has so much at stake: If there is a hung parliament, the way Britain is governed will be changed forever.
As the presence of Islamist groups that urge Muslims to vote along confessional lines has been a constant feature, adding to the election’s unpredictability, it is worth taking a final look at how Islamist groups are trying to influence the voting patterns of ordinary Muslims.
Elections always energize the most vociferous Islamist groups, who claim that participating in democracy is heretical. They consequently advise Muslims to abstain from voting altogether.
Since Gordon Brown announced the election, a banned group, “Islam4UK,” has re-emerged with typical menace. Its members are followers of Omar Bakri Mohammed, the self-styled cleric who fled Britain after the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005. His supporters have previously operated under a variety of different names including: al-Muhajiroun, al-Ghurabaa, and The Saved Sect.
Bakri’s followers thuggishly intimidate Muslims who intend to vote, and allegedly threatened George Galloway with violence as he campaigned in Bethnal Green and Bow during the 2005 election. This time, they are again campaigning again under the name ‘voting is shirk’ - ‘shirk’ being an Arabic word meaning the act of taking someone other than Allah as God. Lampposts in East London have been daubed with their stickers declaring “voting for man-made law is apostasy.”
The radical Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT) also has urged Muslims not to vote, and has issued a booklet on “The Ruling on Muslim Participation in the Political Life of the West.” More sophisticated and savvy than Bakri’s followers, HuT employs a range of methods to project its message. This includes a viral rap-song released on YouTube ” You Tube with the lyrics, “Elections coming up, but no I ain’t voting. Why? Cos it’s haram [forbidden] and that’s a fact, I ain’t joking.”
Although the presence of these Islamist agitators is nothing new, they have struggled to give their message much headway - an effort that prompted a rise in groups which instead want to skew votes in favour of “Muslim-friendly” candidates, although without having enjoyed great success. During the London Mayoral election in 2007 a group calling itself “Muslims 4 Ken,” supporting the incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone, published incendiary literature aimed at the Bangladeshi community; the literature suggested that Livingstone’s main rival, Boris Johnson, would ban the Quran if he succeeded in winning the Mayoralty. Of course, Johnson never proposed such a policy and, despite that, swept to victory.
Earlier this week the British Muslim Initiative (BMI) emailed its supporters a list of 52 recommended candidates. The email advises that “Muslims need to vote responsibly and tactically, which may require supporting a candidate with whom we may not agree on every political view.”
The BMI’s spokesman, Anas Altikriti, argued in last week’s Guardian that British Muslims have “come of age and become quite astute in dealing with the elections according to interests, priorities and concerns, many of which are shared by a majority of the British people.” Altikriti is also former president of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Association of Britain
Trying to project the “interests, priorities and concerns” of the BMI as non-sectarian, Altikriti explains that the group will back the Liberal Democrat candidate, Karen Hamilton, against the Muslim incumbent, Khalid Mahmood, in the Perry Barr constituency of Birmingham. The move is not as altruistic as it might seem.
Mahmood has an impeccable record of non-sectarian public service and is an outspoken critic of Hamas terrorism. It is more than likely this is what caused him to fall short of the BMI’s “interests, priorities and concerns.”
BMI’s current president, Mohammed Sawalha, has been described by the BBC as a fugitive Hamas commander. A detailed investigation, led by John Ware, into the funding arrangements of Hamas operatives in Britain argues that Sawalha “masterminded much of Hamas's political and military strategy” from London. The Muslim Brotherhood’s official mouthpiece, IslamOnline, describes him as “manager of the political committee of the International Organization of the Brothers [The Muslim Brotherhood] in Britain.”
This explains how a group, which claims to “encourage Muslim participation in British public life,” is briefing against Mahmood in this week’s election. Yes, he is a Muslim - but, as he does not support the sectarian aims of the BMI, he is the wrong type of Muslim.