Operation Muslim Vote: Q and A with MPACUK’s Raza Nadim

Raza Nadim

MPACUK is campaigning hard around the country to mobilise the Muslim vote ahead of the general election on June 8.

Their strategy is to is to increase Muslim voter turnout to get Jeremy Corbyn elected as Prime Minister and kick out the Tories. 5Pillars caught up with MPACUK’s Raza Nadim’s for more details.

5Pillars: Are you targeting specific constituencies or is this more of a general campaign?

Raza Nadim: Our campaign to get people registered to vote was general and was across the country. But in terms of constituencies that we are targeting we’re looking at places where there is a sitting Tory MP with Labour in second place and where there is a sizeable Muslim population. So we’re targeting Derby North, Croydon Central and Keighley.

5P: Can you tell me a little bit more about those constituencies?

RN: We are targeting Amanda Solloway in Derby because she is just a very poor, incompetent MP. She won by just 49 votes at the last election and that was partly down to the Muslims not being particularly engaged. And the Labour candidate is an extremely ethical candidate and is very pro Jeremy Corbyn so if he got in you would have a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn rather than a guy who is trying to cause him more trouble.

With Croydon Central it’s the junior Housing Minister Gavin Barwell who only won by 100 votes or so, and again he’s an extremely poor MP locally. He has been completely behind Cameron and May’s austerity measures and voted to cut housing benefits. He is a deeply unethical man and I would personally take some joy in campaigning against him.

And finally you have Kris Hopkins in Keighley who has a majority of around 3,000 or so and the reason why he won is because the Muslim community wasn’t engaged. But they are kingmakers there and can decide who gets in or out. Hopkins is a deeply offensive man with the comments he’s made about grooming gangs.

5P: Do you think Muslims will be more engaged in this election because for once it seems they have somebody to vote for?

RN: 100%. I think everyone can see the marked difference between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. And we have seen this on the doorstep where people feel they actually have a choice. This time it’s not just a case of having Tories or “Tory lite,” we’re not just voting for another warmonger who might be a bit nicer to us and not as bad on immigration. So we haven’t even had to convince people on the doorstep about this – people are energised and that’s entirely because of Jeremy Corbyn.

5P: What would be your advice be to someone who wants Corbyn to win but they have a pro Zionist Labour candidate in their constituency?

RN: I think they should see the bigger picture and take one for the team, but I’d only say that depending on the marginal nature of the seat. But this is a real problem and will remain a problem if Muslims only activate politically around election time. At the moment Muslims have no input into the selection of candidates and how the local party functions or what will be in the manifestos. If you’re concerned about your candidate then you have to be very politically active outside of election time. Otherwise we will have exactly the same conversation at the next election.

5P: Do you think Muslim organisations should have come out more explicitly in favour of Corbyn?

RN: I’ve found the silence of Muslim groups in this country to be deeply problematic because there’s no strategic benefit in trying to be amicable to Theresa May. Theresa May has proven as Home Secretary and now as our unelected Prime Minister that she has very little concern about listening to Muslims and Muslim organisations at the grassroots level whereas Jeremy Corbyn has proven the exact opposite. We all know that Corbyn is the better choice, we all know he is more ethical so why not just say it?

5P: The anti-voting lobby haven’t been as noisy as they have been in the past?

RN: They are definitely still a damaging factor on social media but on the ground they aren’t. Over the years they’ve lost the argument because people have realised that voting is purely a pragmatic choice to make sure Muslims aren’t suffering. This isn’t a religious decision about making Theresa May your Lord. And it’s also quite hard to say “they’re all the same” when clearly this time we have a choice. You might still get one particular organisation that talks about the voting issue but most people have moved on from that conversation.

5P: Should Muslims in Scotland vote for the SNP?

RN: With the SNP there’s nothing to complain about. If you look at their voting record in Parliament it’s been fantastic. They are dedicated to tackling the austerity issue and their foreign policy is really good. So SNP all the way.

5P: There’s always going to be a minority of Muslims who will vote Tory. What do you say to them?

RN: Those people are usually quite removed from the community. They’re usually councilors or they have family who are linked to MPs or peers. They’ve chosen personal benefit and sold out our community and I have no respect for any Muslims who say “I support the Conservatives” given the damage they’ve done over the years. Muslims have been treated with disdain by this government, we are not treated equally or with respect.

5P: What about the Lib Dems?

RN: It’s quite a toxic brand now if you consider the time of the Coalition. Nick Clegg did massive damage to them with the tuition fees stuff and propping up the Tories rather than being a challenging voice. People don’t see them as a credible thing now. I think we’re going to see more hemorrhaging of Lib Dem votes in this election.

5P: Finally, what about the Muslim vote in general. Is it over-hyped?

RN: We should be talking it up because over time there are more and more Muslims who identify themselves not as Asians but as Muslims and their political decisions are driven by their faith. So there is such a thing as the Muslim vote although it isn’t as well organised and funded as it should be.

We need to talk about it because we need to make it clear to other Muslims that they are part of a movement that says we need to be politically-engaged and we need to stand up for Muslims here and around the world. But we need to continue engaging even after the election because the key is proactive long-term engagement and work and without that we are going to be in the same situation forever. And the fact is that in this Brexit Britain under the Conservatives there will be 5 years more of austerity and cuts so things are going to get harder for us and that requires us to be more intelligent, politically-savvy and organised.

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