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Is there a Muslim bloc vote and how do Muslims vote?

28 April 2010

On 20 April, Hisham Hellyer wrote a piece "For some MPs the Muslim vote will be vital: Muslims are a small minority nationally but their votes will swing certain seats, and local issues will be key" on the Guardian's Comment is free (Cif) website. That prompted me on 23 April at 10:16 to write a comment which is on the Cif website. For the convenience of readers, I have also reproduced my comment below.

Although I am the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, this comment is written in an entirely personal capacity.

Hisham Hellyer is right when he says there is no such thing as a Muslim bloc vote. When you consider issues such as tax policy, there are Muslims who believe in low taxation (as I do) and Muslims who believe in high taxation. The same applies to most other political issues.

However, there are some issues, such as the need for a just peace in Palestine, where the views of Muslims show a much higher level of uniformity.

Overall, it is important for the health of our democracy for all citizens to take an active interest in how we are governed. Voting is just the first step.

I regard it as essential for Muslims to get further involved in the political process by getting to know their MPs, by writing letters to politicians and newspapers, and most importanly by joining political parties so that they have a voice in policy formulation and the selection of party candidates.

Subsequently, on 27 April and also on Cif Anas Altikriti wrote "Muslim voters come of age: In this election, the Muslim vote will transcend religious and ethnic affinities – and traditional support for Labour" which prompted a large number of comments on the subject of whether there was such a thing as a Muslim vote. In a comment on 28 April at 21:33 I shared my thoughts on how Muslims have tended to vote, and have reproduced them below.

Although I am the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, this comment is written in an entirely personal capacity.

Anas Altikriti is basically right. The Muslim community in the UK is coming of age politically, although there is much further for it to go. Historically, some Muslims have not voted at all, either due to poor literacy or more recently because some of them are misled into believing voting is un-Islamic. Fortunately many religious scholars have published clear opinions that voting in our country's elections is not only permissible, it is a desirable thing for Muslims to do. Accordingly, I expect to see Muslim participation rise this year.

Muslims have tended to predominantly vote Labour.

Part of the reason for this is simply their income distribution; Muslims are on average poorer than non-Muslims, and poor people are more likely to vote Labour. However, I believe that at each point of the income scale, Muslims have been more likely to vote Labour than a non-Muslim of the same income level. In my view, the reasons for this are historic; in the 1960's Labour was the party which introduced the Race Relations Act, while the Conservative Party had Enoch Powell. Memories are long, and there have been other racists along the way who have damaged the Conservative Party's image with British Muslims.

However, things are changing dramatically.

David Cameron (who I admire greatly) has been very firm in stamping on any Conservatives who make racist remarks, and the Party now has many more black and ethnic minority candidates. The transformation is best shown by the selection of Muslims as Conservative candidates in the safe seats of Stratford upon Avon and Bromsgrove.

I suspect that the Conservative Party will not get to parity in this election. (Parity would mean that if you tried to guess voting intentions from only knowing a person's age, income and education, your guess would be just as likely to be right regardless of whether that person turned out to be a Muslim or a non-Muslim when that piece of data was revealed.) However, I do believe we will get closer to parity. That puts a large number of formerly safe Labour seats where Labour could previously rely on Muslim voters, into play.

As I wrote on 23 April at 10:16AM in response to Hisham Hellyer's column I do not believe there is such a thing as a Muslim bloc vote. On most issues, Muslims have a wide range of views, but they do have a much more uniform view on some key issues such as Israel and Palestine.

 

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