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|UK: The battle for the Muslim vote|
|04/23/05 at 20:30:19|
|UK: The battle for the Muslim vote|
By Hannah K. Strange
UPI UK Correspondent
Published April 21, 2005
LONDON -- Britain's 1.6 million Muslims may not at first glance seem to have significant voting power. However, with much of the community concentrated in key marginal seats and energized by such events as the Iraq war, their potential clout should not be underestimated.
In 2001 there were 13 marginal constituencies with significant Muslim voting potential, according to the Muslim Council of Britain. Since then the number has risen significantly, with many seats once considered Labor strongholds now hotly contested.
The North London constituency of Brent East, which has a large Muslim community, is a case in point. Labor-held since the 1970s, Labor candidate Paul Daisley won comfortably in 2001 with 63 percent of the vote. But in a 2003 by-election in the midst of the Iraq war, Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather came from nowhere to snatch victory with 39 percent, in the process becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons at age 26.
Sarah Teather is likely to retain her seat, and her victory may well be repeated elsewhere.
The most bitter and high-profile of these election battles is currently being waged in the East London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, where George Galloway, leader of the antiwar party Respect, is threatening to depose the Labor incumbent, Oona King.
Galloway, a man never far from controversy, was expelled from the Labor Party in October 2003 in the wake of his outspoken comments on the Iraq war -- comments that Labor chairman Ian McCartney said "incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops."
Labor acted against him following a TV interview in which he accused Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush of acting "like wolves" in invading Iraq.
Shortly afterward he helped to found Respect, but for some time was dogged by accusations that he had accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein's regime and was involved in diverting money from the U.N. Oil for Food Program.
In 2004, he won two libel cases against newspapers publishing articles to that effect - Britain's Daily Telegraph and the Christian Science Monitor in the United States.
It was the day of his Telegraph victory that he announced he would be standing against King, the black, Jewish "Blair babe" who lent her unfettered support to the Iraq war.
"Here in Bethnal Green and Bow, there is a New Labor stooge MP," Galloway said. "A stooge who will sing any song, make any speech, do any dance, do anything she is told to by Tony Blair - irrespective of how her constituents are adversely affected or how strongly they feel to the contrary."
He added: "We intend to make her pay, and I suspect that she knows that already."
The signs are that he could well do just that. Galloway is a popular man in Bethnal Green and Bow, where over 40 percent of the population is Muslim, and King's 10,000 majority is looking increasingly shaky.
Respect claims that a ward-by-ward analysis of the European election results in June 2004 - the only recent poll of the area - show their party ahead of Labor by 6 percent.
Meanwhile, analysts say the contest is too close to call -- in marked contrast to 2001, when King took 51 percent in a six-candidate field.
The result has been an increasingly vicious electoral contest. Galloway said of King at a recent debate that "100,000 people lie dead as a result of the decisions she made." King responded by citing Galloway's two trips to Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, in the years before the war. "When I come across someone who is guilty of genocide, I do not get on a plane and go to Baghdad and grovel at his feet," she said.
Analysts say King's problems, while potentially more serious than those faced by many Labor candidates, reflect the fact that the Iraq war still evokes great anger among much of the electorate.
And in the Muslim community, it is a key voter issue. The Muslim Council of Britain, the nation's foremost Muslim association, has distributed voter guides with 10 questions to pose to candidates. Withdrawal from Iraq is a key demand, as is enforcing international law equally rather than allowing some countries such as Israel, India and Russia, to "flout United Nations resolutions with impunity."
On a domestic level, desirable policies include support for legislation against incitement to religious hatred, opposition to anti-terror legislation that bypasses trials, and improved support for Muslim faith schools.
Naima Bouteldja, a Muslim activist and freelance journalist, told United Press International that although not all Muslim electors would vote on such issues, the current international and domestic circumstances had unified the community in terms of its political stance.
Public service issues such as education or healthcare would also influence Muslims as they tended to be one of the most impoverished communities, she added.
Although the Muslim community was still not a monolithic voter group, it was now much more cohesive than in the past, she said.
Muslim voters were also rejecting their traditional alliance with the Labor Party, she said.
But a lot of Muslims would still vote Labor, she said, particularly where a Muslim or antiwar candidate has been fielded in their constituency, noting this has happened in many seats with a large Muslim population.
"A tiny minority" would also vote Tory, mostly the upper-middle or business class, she said.
But the majority of the community would shift toward Respect or the Liberal Democrats on the basis of their stance on the Iraq war, foreign policy and domestic anti-terror legislation, she said.
A small minority would also abstain for religious reasons, Bouteldja noted.
The issue of electoral participation and Islam has been thrown into the limelight this week with an eruption of violence between antiwar protesters and Islamic extremists.
A Muslim Council of Britain event at a London mosque Tuesday was stormed by around a dozen men believed to be members of the supposedly disbanded militant group al-Muhajiroun. Denouncing the MCB as "the mouthpiece for Tony Blair," the men warned that voting was against Islam and anyone who did so would become kafir (an unbeliever) and go to hell.
Later that night, George Galloway was forced to take refuge from a group of Islamic extremists as he visited voters in a council apartment in Bethnal Green and Bow.
A gang of 30 men, believed to be members of radical group Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, entered the apartment and surrounded Galloway and his supporters. Warning him against attempting to woo Muslim voters, they told him they were "setting up the gallows" for him and that any Muslim who voted for his antiwar Respect party would face a "sentence of death."
As a fight broke out between the two groups, Galloway escaped to his car, where he hid until the police arrived.
The same evening Oona King had her car tires slashed and the vehicle pelted with eggs by a gang of youths angry at her support for the Iraq war.
It later emerged she had also been attacked with eggs at the weekend, allegedly by Respect supporters.
The intimidation continued Wednesday night, when a group also believed to be linked to al-Muhajiroun stormed a Respect meeting and issued Galloway with a death threat. He was a "false prophet," they informed him, for which the sentence was death. Both Galloway and King are now under police protection.
Though such extremists are very much a marginal group within the Muslim community, their intimidation may have an influence on some potential voters.
Bouteldja told UPI some Muslims who were unsure about voting may now decide not to, either through fear of retaliation or for religious reasons.
However, anger at the Labor government is likely to prove too powerful a pull to the ballot box, and ultimately, the electoral battle in Bethnal Green and Bow may come to be seen as a microcosm of other marginal seats.
Respect is fielding just 25 candidates, but the Liberal Democrats also stand to make significant gains. Potential upsets could include Blackburn, previously a Labor stronghold, where Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is struggling for survival.
Though the Muslim community will not unseat Tony Blair, they are certainly capable of giving him a very bloody nose indeed.
|UK's "Islam Friendly" George Galloway Shows His Tr|
|04/24/05 at 06:52:45|
|UK's "Islam Friendly" George Galloway Shows His True Colors |
uploaded 23 Apr 2005
Apr 21, 2005
JUS News Desk
Yesterday was indeed a day of dawning for UK Muslims who still think that politicians take their interests to heart. The day started off with violence when the masked men, believed to be linked to Omar Bakri's now defunct al Muhajiroun group, burst into the press conference at the Central London Mosque in Regents Park yesterday morning. Matters further digressed when George Galloway, the "friend" of the Muslims accused Hizb Ut-Tahrir of attacking him following a campaign meeting.
Here is a statement from Hizb Ut-Tahrir, uncut and uncensored, that was issued yesterday.
We remind our viewers that the statements, opinions and points of view expressed in this article are those of the author and shall not be deemed to mean that they are necessarily those of Jihad Unspun, the publisher, editor, writers, contributors or staff.
Galloway Accuses Hizb Ut-Tahrir To Avoid Saturday's Debate
The Evening Standard carried today a piece, which quoted George Galloway the Respect Party candidate for Bow and Bethnal Green. The article accuses members of Hizb ut-Tahrir of attacking Galloway after a campaign meeting. He states,
"I was meeting people who live in the flats. Hizb-ut-Tahrir suddenly filled the room and blocked the door. I tried speaking calmly. They then said I was parading as a false prophet and served a sentence of death on me. They were claiming I was representing myself as a false deity and for this apostasy I would be sentenced to the gallows," he said.
"They said they were setting up the gallows for me. Thank God my daughter was not with me. She was in the car outside. Otherwise there would have been nobody to call the police. The police saved my life."
We are appalled by the article and the accusation and utterly reject it as a fabrication and a slander against the good name of the party.
It is well known that Hizb ut-Tahrir views the Respect Party, like all UK political parties, as political opportunists that present one face to the Muslims and another to their other constituencies. Respect has removed references to being a “Socialist” party from material distributed in Muslim communities. It has obscured its views towards rights for homosexuals including those that express Muslims cannot reject homosexuals that wish to be Imams or teachers in Islamic schools.
It is our belief that George Galloway knows very well that it was not members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir that were involved in the incident he mentioned and that he has orchestrated these fabrications in order to malign the Party which is strong in the Bethnal Green constituency, where he is hoping to secure his seat and political career.
This was confirmed when we spoke today to the Respect Party office. They readily admitted that another group was behind the attack and not the Hizb. Furthermore even the Respect Party followers in Tower Hamlets who contributed to yesterday's brawl have all acknowledged that the opposing group was not the Hizb. So why the deliberate lies?
It is clear that George Galloway, like Oona King, fears the challenge of Hizb-ut-Tahrir particularly in the debate this Saturday and is trying to malign the party on the above pretext. It is also clear that our positive campaign to present an alternative to the dirty tactics of these political parties has affected Galloway's campaign across the country. In Birmingham, for example, Muslim community members have refused support to Galloway after hearing of their policies and ideals.
A concerned member of the public spoke to the police earlier today and they also acknowledged that the Hizb was not involved in the incidents yesterday. The Respect Party is uncharacteristically quiet today, despite multiple attempts to contact them. We have contacted our legal team and they will be issuing legal proceedings against Mr Galloway today unless he makes a public apology for his statements.
Call to Action:
We would like you to ring the Respect Party head office and politely express your concern at what Mr Galloway has said on: +44 (0)20 8980 3507. Please remember to express your concern in an Islamic way. Islamic politics is based upon adab not the dirty tricks exhibited by Galloway and other western politicians.
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