The 6th of May, 2010 was to mark an end to 13 years of Labour government, reshaping the British political landscape. Despite Labour’s deplorable foreign policy, it was the international monetary collapse that it would bear the brunt of and catalyse its defeat. The media, with its tendency to overlook the systematic causation of the economic downturn, was to paint the former Chancellor Gordon Brown as the one liable. The war in Iraq, opposed by the masses but to utter Labour disregard in addition to cross-party MP expenses assisted in overshadowing all of the government’s residual integrity before surrendering to the following a bankrupt, debt-fed economy. Whether a tactical retreat to secure the forthcoming elections or not, the defeat of Labour was unsurprising, and to such a scale that it created a hung parliament and facilitated the way for the Liberal Democrats to clutch a slice of governance in what was the first coalition to be formed directly from an election outcome in British history. Regrettably, those who cast their ballots in gullibility to what appeared in the manifestos, not least the Muslim voter, observed a different governmental reality that has left the Muslim voter in a state of political disarray, raising the question, what should be done and who should be supported?
Excitement at the prospect of real change, the restoration of basic civil liberties, the opposition to expansionist foreign policy, the better distribution of authority and a fairer deal to the tax-payer loomed the circles of the reformist voter, exasperated by the Labour-Conservative perpetual power swing. This surpassed the voter’s ability to come to terms to the true magnitude of Lib-dem influence, effectively prodding into power the Conservatives before being dissolved, shaken and swallowed to reinforce their image as the futile party. That said, the Lib-Dems were confronted with a series of opportunities to reclaim their manifesto and to reassure their sympathisers that they are still the advocators of “fundamental”, “real” and “radical” change.
It goes without question that it was with the Lib-dems from among the parties likely to win measurable authority that the Muslim found the greatest degree of coherence. This was on both national and international levels. An example of this was when Islamophobes busied themselves in aggravating society against the Niqab only to be contested by key figures in the Lib-dems who were foremost in defending this ‘liberty’. Of course many fundamental policies advocated by the Lib-dems are by no degree in conformance to Islam, nevertheless the option of voting for them was the closest to the deterrence of evil and to the reduction of harm which is a religious requirement and thus the Muslim voter was not blameworthy. Despite this, what has been the reality of the Lib-dems in government is a successive failure to meet its many pledges and assurances.
Delving into the 2010 Lib-dem manifesto, glittered with delightful promises, the reader is left perplexed as to whether they were promises deceived by first-time authority, or genuine assurances that were pulverized by reality. The actions of the Lib-dems, however, allowed no room for good suspicion. Their transformed position towards the rise in tuition fees, initially vehemently opposing its increase before voting in favour of tripling it is one such example. Indeed an apology was issued by Nick Clegg himself but was hopeless in addressing the issue that has hindered thousands from being able to pursue further education. If anything, the apology at making the promise in the first place rather than breaking it made the situation worse at it instated a new face to the Lib-dem’s future policy. That said, their initial stance was not to maintain tuition fees at pre-rise levels, it was in fact to roll out a “financially responsible plan to phase fees out over six years, so that the change is affordable even in these difficult economic times” in order to “scrap unfair university tuition fees for all students taking their first degree” (not just resist its increase!). With such a misspelt promise and a 200% error of commitment “to a policy when there was no money around”, the question that raises itself is how then can the Lib-dems lead a deflating economy or deal with a reality that they have not understood? Consistently, their vow to “cut rail fares” such that regulated fares fall behind inflation by 1 per cent each year” was toppled onto its head when the announced spike (4.8%) was almost double the inflation rate.
The Lib-dem’s economic forecast was far from out of the blue. The proposition for a cheaper “like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system” was to make available funding for the educational sector. Poor backing of this proposition, another example of an overlooked promise will cost the tax-payer £100-£200 billion for the purpose of providing military “deterrence” in a climate where the ill-funded educational system anything but deters the UK from long-term academic regression. Granted the world is in an appalling economic situation, created by institutes of usury and exploitation, nonetheless the Lib-dem’s stance against their supposed liberal values has not helped them make even a single notable achievement in this avenue.
Having miserably failed in enacting constitutional reform by forming an alliance with conservatism, having slumped short of changing the voting system in its favour or of democratising the House of Lords, the likelihood of a Lib-dem collapse is near imminent. Even suggestions to the effect of legislating the government’s spying on emails and internet activity have been faced with timid Lib-dem resentment, only members in the conservative party voicing any audible objection. If human liberty and democracy are no longer its ethics, what element will trounce their inexperience and entice votes in the forthcoming election? This very “betrayal of the party’s guiding principles” such that the purpose that it serves has become obscure. This has motivated the resignation of Dina Rose, one of the country’s leading human rights barristers. It was on the very weekend that the ex Lib-dem member Jo Shaw, the leading Liberal Democrat campaigner against secret courts announced her resignation at the party’s 2013 spring conference in objection to “a leadership for whom the privilege of power has meant the betrayal of liberal values”. Then not late in succession was the resignation of the international lawyer Prof Philippe Sands as a result of his former party “having lost integrity on one issue that has truly distinguished them from other parties”, namely the Justice and Security Bill. To the sheer disarray of the Lib-dem voter and to add insult to injury, the Lib-dems, for a second time running voted in favour of passing this bill.
The Justice and Security bill, currently under review by the House of Commons allows UK authorities to put forth evidence in closed hearings, barring the claimant and the claimant’s lawyer access to this evidence in what is known as a closed material procedure (CMS). The judge can then press forth to release a ‘secret judgement’ maintaining all proof hidden “from the claimant (of alleged abuse), their lawyer, the press, and the public indefinitely” . Such a bill, if passed will render void the independence of judges, facilitating for the government to climb above the law and impede the complainant from challenging undisclosed material. The coalition government further asserts that the adversities of the bill “are likely to fall on black and Asian Muslim men by virtue of their over-representation in civil cases involving national security” . It is to no surprise that this skewed bill is viewed as an endeavour to hide the cunning coalitions between UK intelligence services and their repressive counterparts under dictatorial regimes or to hide direct knowledge of torture. As a consequence, the Lib-dems can marvel at their reputational fiasco, where their previous vow to “scrap control orders”1 has reversed into an avocation of legal proceedings to similar or even greater effect.
There is no doubt that voters, not least many Muslim nationals cast a Lib-dem ballot paper in order to “put British values of fairness and the rule of law back at the heart of our foreign policy”. Moreover, this was to actualise a dignified Britain, independent of foreign political pressure and that understands the “dangers of a subservient relationship with the United States that neglects Britain’s core values”. To the contrary, it was in October 2012 and under the very coalition government that the lamentable extradition of Babar Ahmad to the US took place, dealing the once highly reputable and sovereign British legal system a severe blow. Indeed for the Lib-dems, their accounts did not sum up again and their vow to “stop unfair extradition to the US”1 proved another unforeseen bill for the top seat that they were happy to foot. This display of unrivalled subservience to the US, topping eight years of imprisonment without trial undermines the unparalleled British led campaign that took place to protect the rights of Mr. Ahmad and reveals a Lib-dem insistence of self-destruction that is unfathomable.
Consequently, the objective of this critique is not to entice the Muslim to abstain from voting in the forthcoming election. Indeed abstention in the framework of this democratic system can provide an advantage to those who work against the interests of Islam and the Muslims, in particular those parties who advocate racism and Islamophobia. Averting evil to ones best ability is usually all that is possible whilst voting sporadically and in absence of the objective to repel evil is fruitless and can be even detrimental.
The Prophet Sala Allahu Alayhi Wasalam said, “Whoever sees an evil, he should change it by his hands; if he could not do so, then he should change it by his tongue; if he could not do so, then he should do that by his heart, which is the least of faith.”
It is, however, to reveal the manifestation of not enough Muslim political influence on the one hand and distorted and buckled representation on the other. Insufficient influence manifests in the Muslim voter not pursuing those promised policies constantly through lobbying and campaigning. The latter distorted representation is revealed through the emergence Muslims MPs who are nervous about, misinformed by or openly defiant to the teachings of Islam. Many of whom for example voted in favour of the legitimising of Gay Marriage when they were given the choice to oppose it and thus failed to represent the majority of Muslims. How can we expect things to change if this remains the case? How can we expect that the compounding pressure on the Muslim community be lessened when those who understand the untainted and pure political principles of Islam, its universality and its ability to lift society back onto its feet remain on the sidelines, avoiding political involvement at all levels? The Prophet Sala Allah Alayh Wasalam Said:
“By the one who possesses my soul, you will enjoin good and you will forbid evil or Allah may send upon you a punishment from him, then you will beseech his help and he will not answer.”
If recent events have taught us anything it is that one cannot rely on any political party to deliver and come good on their promises. Therefore strategically, how can a Muslim strive to uphold the interests of the community when the ‘best party’ has conducted itself in this way? Most definitely, influencing the MP of a constituency pursuing oaths and campaigning for a positive individual position in parliament is far easier and than impacting the ‘overall’ stance of the government on any issue. Muslims are encouraged to speak to the candidates of their respective constituencies, identifying those who advocate policies that are in the best interest of the Muslim community. Community leaders should urge those favourable candidates to uphold principled values in parliament, making this a precondition to their support, irrespective of the party that the candidate is part of. In summary, it would be better for Muslims not to vote for political parties, but rather across political lines to vote for the candidate who is most sympathetic towards issues affecting Muslims. Finally, Muslims should persistently review the work and stance of their MP, enjoining best practice as much as is in their capacity.
“So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can…”
Ahmed Hammuda is a regular contributor at Islam21c. His interests lie in Qur’anic Tafsir and the field of Middle East Affairs and how they reflect on Muslims living in the West. He is an Electrical Engineer by trade and has been involved in various Da’wah activities over the course of his education and working life. He has transferred the same analytical approach required in engineering into a careful and measured approach in his views and positions.