Review of the Year May 2015: British Muslims downcast over Cameron election win

British Muslim news in May 2015 was dominated by the repercussions of David Cameron’s general election win, with most expressing pessimism over it.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) congratulated David Cameron on securing a second term as Prime Minister.

Dr Shuja Shafi said: “I congratulate the Prime Minister for the success of his party. The electoral map changed dramatically last night and I hope Mr Cameron and his party work hard to unite the country for the common good. We are heartened by commitment by the Conservative Party to have police forces record Islamophobic hate crimes.

“In governing in the best interests for all Britons, we hope the Prime Minister will work to engage with British Muslims at all levels… In essence, we seek a compassionate and caring society, one where no groups are left behind through disadvantage and discrimination. We want a society that is vibrant and successful.

The election saw more British Muslims being elected as MPs, and significantly more Muslim women. But the Islamic Human Rights Commission said that Britain would pay a “heavy price” for the Conservative Party’s victory.

In a statement IHRC stated: “The return to power of the Conservative Party with a majority in the British general election is a victory for the forces of xenophobia, division and fear. It is evident from the disparity between polls leading up to the election and the actual outcome that the unashamedly racist anti-Scottish campaigning by the Conservatives which presented English voters with a nightmarish vision of power-drunk Scots calling the shots in a coalition with Labour succeeded in spooking enough of them into voting Tory.

“Over the course of the election campaign the Tories had also intentionally ramped up the rhetoric on immigration pandering to racial prejudices in a bid to outflank UKIP and Labour. This general election has left Britain a broken nation, creating divisions between racial/religious minorities and the white majority, between England and Scotland, and between the haves and have nots, the latter of which will be forced to bear the brunt of yet more swingeing austerity cuts.”

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Galloway loses

Meanwhile, George Galloway seemed to have paid the price for a lack of on-ground delivery in Bradford after losing a 10,000 plus majority to Labour’s Naz Shah.

George Galloway
George Galloway

The pro-Muslim, anti-war candidate, who has twice been propelled into parliament on the back of the “Muslim vote,” won just 8,557 votes to Shah’s 19,977.

After thanking her supporters in her victory speech, Shah criticised Galloway, saying: “I thank all my opponents, with the exception of one, who all convicted themselves really deeply to, and fought to be elected on, issues and in the spirit of friendly rivalry. To Mr Galloway I say that your campaign demeaned our democracy but personal attacks on me have not worked. The people of Bradford West have seen through this and you have been sent on your way.”

In response, in a speech after Shah’s, Galloway said: “I don’t begrudge the Labour members here their moment of celebration of course. But there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating. The hyena can bounce on the lion’s grave but it can never be a lion and in any case, I’m not in my grave. As a matter of fact I’m going off now to plan the next campaign.”

Mixed result for British Muslims

Writing in 5Pillars, political blogger Imran Shah said the general election was a mixed one for Muslims.

He wrote: “While the community stayed largely loyal to Labour, five more years of a Conservative government won’t be good news for them. The one bright spark, though, was the SNP’s success in Scotland…

“What was also consistent without exception, in constituencies where Muslims have over 15% of the vote share they either stayed strongly Labour or moved over from Conservative or Liberal Democrat to Labour in all of those 40 seats. If there was a case of a Muslim vote bloc, this was it. In fact, this is what seemed to have stopped Labour from getting an even more pitiful result.”

Muslim kids “should be monitored”

In other news, Britain’s top Muslim policeman called for children as young as five to be monitored for signs of “Islamist extremism.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier.

Chishty, who’s head of community engagement for the Metropolitan police in London, said ISIS propaganda is so powerful he had to be vigilant about his own children.

He said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram.” He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims, some 700 so far, being lured from their bedrooms to Syria by Islamic State.

He said this could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer, which could be because the store is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned.

Mak Chishty says the private space of Muslims should be monitored
Mak Chishty says the private space of Muslims should be monitored

Chishty said friends and family of youngsters should be intervening much earlier, watching out for subtle, unexplained changes, which could also include sudden negative attitudes towards alcohol, social occasions and western clothing.

In response, over 50 prominent Muslim activists – representing a wide political and theological spectrum of the community – signed an open letter denouncing London police commander Mak Chishty’s call for Muslim children to be monitored for signs of radicalisation.

The activists said that Chishty had conflated traditional Islamic beliefs and legitimate political activism with extremism. They add that his comments have further undermined trust between the Muslim community and the police.

They wrote: “Commander Chishty is adding to the burdens the parents of Muslim children must carry. For Commander Chishty to use as an example of “radicalisation”, a refusal to celebrate Christmas is highly problematic. Would he take such a line with regard to members of other faiths who do not celebrate Christmas such as Jehovah’s Witnesses? While some Muslims participate in Christmas celebrations of one sort or another, there are also those who follow a more traditional opinion that it is not permissible from a purely religious perspective. Such parents often convey these practices to their children. It is dangerous to conflate such practices with negative and hostile attitudes and behaviour towards Christians, or those of any other faith.

“Similarly, it is foolish to conflate the divestment, boycott and sanctions movement against the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories – a movement supported by Britons of all faiths and none – with incipient radicalisation. For Commader Chishty to misattribute the political boycott of companies such as Marks & Spencer over their support of illegal Israeli settlements to a perception that they are “Jewish-owned”, betrays a simplistic understanding of the matter and is likely to raise community tensions.”

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