This is why I’m voting today…

5Pillars reader Dr Salma Khan urges Muslims to go out today and vote to make their voices heard. 

It’s election morning. The kids are at school, hubby is at work and I’m sat thinking. And I’ve realised for the first time I’m scared.

For those that know me, politics and elections were the last thing I would ever think about. Surviving medical school, drooling over a Mulberry bag or knowing the latest happenings in Eastenders would be my area of expertise.

However things change.

Despite being born in Manchester, growing up here and being a proud Mancunian (we can overlook the fact that I support Liverpool FC), for the first time in 37 years I feel as though I don’t belong. And I’m sure many people reading this may be feeling the same way.

Yes, I am Muslim. Not a radical/Islamist/moderate/integrated/extremist one, just a British-born Muslim. And I don’t think anyone needs to be a rocket scientist to work out why I feel like this.

Vilification

Muslims and Islam have been vilified and demonised by society and the media. Islamophobic attacks are on the rise.

And no, I haven’t been the target of an Islamophobic attack yet but I’m also not naive enough to think it won’t happen to me just because I don’t wear a headscarf or because I appear more “westernised” in my clothing.

I dread opening my Sky News app in case there’s another unfair biased news headline which I will then have to apologise for.

muslim voteI wonder what the future holds for my 2 boys: will they be able to practice their faith or will they have to do it discretely for fear of a teacher reporting them under the current Prevent legislation? What will the job opportunities be like for them? Will the discrimination currently faced by Muslims in the workplace continue?

The thoughts are endless and no doubt you’ve read them all before so I wont go on. And it isn’t just the issues faced by Muslims but also issues such as the future of the NHS and University fees which will impact us all.

This is why I am voting. And yes I have heard “the voting is shirk” argument but I disagree.

I want to be able to say to my children I did everything I could to give them a safe, happy , unprejudiced, inclusive future in the country they that they can call home.

I want them to feel like they belong and have the same opportunities as non-Muslim children they are growing up with. In 30 years time I don’t want them to feel how I do now.

Who to vote for?

Many people are asking me who am I voting for and my answer is the same to all – you decide.

Decide what matters to you but do your research. Look at the manifestos and avoid the media. Look to organisations like MEND who have done the research on issues that affect the Muslim community and highlighted the pledges each party has agreed to.

Go on the GetOutAndVote website and make an informed decision.

I don’t want the government to pledge any special treatment for me as a Muslim. I just want to vote for the party who will make me feel equal again, like I belong and will allow me to maintain my identity as a British Muslim and protect my rights to practice my faith and secure a better future for my children.

Is that really a big ask?

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