Who should I vote for?
Muhammad Ibrahim provides some useful online research strategies to help readers to make the most informed decision for who to vote for in their constituency. Due to impartiality and Electoral Commission regulations, specific candidates and constituencies are not mentioned, but are anonymously used as very useful case studies.
The next logical question facing Muslims after they have understood the importance of voting is the question: “Who should I vote for?” Many Muslims still have not decided who to vote for at this late stage – or may not have put much thought into this process. This however is a big concern. This article aims to give Muslims practical advice and guidance on how to go about deciding who to vote for.
An initial point which needs to be made is the need for Muslims to start taking into account the problems and concerns of non-Muslims in society as well, and not just Muslims. The Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was a man who cared about the concerns of all people in his society, not just the Muslims. We can see this from his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) concern for his non-Muslim neighbour whom he enquired of when she was ill – despite the fact that she used to throw rubbish on his doorstep, and his honouring of the non-Muslim Mut’im ibn ‘Adi after his death, when he gave the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) protection when no one else in Makkah would. The latter example even shows how Muslims and non-Muslims worked together for the protection and betterment of each other against a common evil. How often do we see that today? Throughout this election campaign we have seen politicians brought to account during live shows for their stances on other minority groups such as LGBT’s;  however how many non-Muslims (or Muslims) did we see asking politicians to make pledges to tackle anti-muslim bigotry during the next government,   or address human rights abuses against British Muslims such as Shaker Aamer?  How can Muslims expect non-Muslims to show the same concern for anti-muslim bigotry when we do not voice the same concern for them when there is a rising number of non-Muslims visiting food banks in the UK – of which there are 355 more than there were in 2010 (when there was only 66)? This disconnect is a concern and the more Muslims show an interest in helping improve the situation of non-Muslims in Britain, the more non-Muslims will be willing to voice their concern for Muslim issues – which they will regard as their own issues.
1. We need to clarify who we are actually voting for.
Firstly, it needs to be made clear that there is no single party of whom Muslims should support all of their candidates across every single constituency. All 3 major political parties (Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) are fielding some candidates who have damaged or proactively worked against the interests of the British Muslim community. Therefore voting for them is not an option; rather the Muslims are arguably obliged to vote against them.
One example of this from each party is as follows. Take for example a Muslim Labour candidate for a particular Birmingham constituency. Many Muslims mistakenly think that they should vote for a candidate just because they are also Muslim, so therefore they must be working in the interests of Muslims. However we will see from this candidate that this is not necessarily the case (though there are other examples). He argued that the 200-odd ‘spy-cameras’ setup to monitor ‘Muslims areas’ of Birmingham in the exposed and failed ‘Project Champion’ should have stayed up on the streets. He has consistently voted against human rights – a typical neo-conservative approach – at almost every opportunity. For example, in a motion to reject a House of Lords Amendment of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in 2005; this amendment explicitly stated that the bill must comply with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty –this particular candidate voted in favour of removing this amendment. He also voted in favour of extending the detention of a suspect without charge from 28 days to 90 days – though fortunately the majority of MPs voted against this extension. He also voted 14 times strongly against an enquiry into the Iraq War – which killed half a million Iraqis.    His misgivings against the Muslim community in particular peaked with his central role in exacerbating the Trojan Horse Hoax scandal.
Another example from other parties are a particular Liberal Democrat candidate for a London constituency. Alongside his call to “reform” (deform) Islām, he has stated his ‘problem’ with some aḥadith, and asserts that “There is no “correct” Islam. It is all interpretation”; as well as posting attempted images of the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) onto his twitter account. A particular Conservative candidate is also well known exceptionally for the harm he has placed on the Muslim community. As well as many other attacks on Muslims, his most famous is his use of the fabricated ‘Trojan Horse (Hoax)’ to try and widen the definition of ‘extremism’ to include normal practices of Islam by most Muslims. It is inconceivable therefore, that any Muslim would consider voting for any of these three candidates.
Therefore, as many concerned activists have stated, “the underlying philosophy of neo-conservatism undercuts political parties”. Thus you will find neo-conservatives in all parties, and it is an individual duty to ensure such a person does not come to power whether they are in a marginal seat or a safe seat, by voting against them. It is best to vote for the next candidate most likely to score the highest number of seats – so long as they are not clearly anti-Islamic in their policies and actions. Even if they are in a safe seat unlikely to change from the current party and you vote against them – this is not a ‘wasted vote’ – as Allāh is not looking out the outcome – rather he is looking to see if you have done everything within your capacity to prevent harm occurring to your society. It is this that you will be asked about, and not the eventual outcome. 
In summary, you are voting ultimately for one of two types of people. Either somebody who is willing to represent Muslim interests/policies in parliament and the interests of the majority of Non-Muslims. Or, if none of the candidates in a constituency are interested in supporting Muslim issues, you are voting for the candidate who is least likely to do harm to the Muslim community and who will bring the most benefit to non-Muslims who need help the most in society. Your job is to decide who is most fit to do this.
2. What tools should I use to help me understand who to vote for?
Step 1 – Find out more about the last General election result for your constituency.
The first step you need to do, is identify what constituency you will be voting in. Enter your postcode into the Democratic Dashboard website – which gives a really good breakdown of your constituency. Alternatively you can type in your constituency name if you know it already. Using “Constituency X” as an example, we can see that it was a semi-marginal (though more leaning towards ‘safe’) seat at the last election for Conservatives, winning by 9,312 votes. The full 2010 election results are available to view, as well as: the last 5 MPs in this area, the prospective candidates standing in this election and local demographics of the area. This seat is likely to be contested between Conservatives and Labour, though if we scroll down to ‘Forecasts and Polling’ we can see from recent polls that it is likely to be a Conservative hold.
Step 2 – Find out more details about your prospective candidates
Next use this website and type in your postcode to see who the candidates are in your local constituency in more detail. (Alternatively you can click ‘select a constituency’ if you know your constituency name). When you click on the constituency, you will see all of the Candidates and their details come up next to each one – such as their websites, email address, Facebook, and twitter accounts and ‘mentions’ – that they have had in the media online. Look through these to see what your candidates have been talking about during this election campaign.
Another step that should be taken is to Google the candidates and read more about what they have been saying in the press, and what they stand for and believe are the most important changes that are needed right now. You can also Google their name along with key words such as “Islam”, Muslims”, Iraq, “Charlie Hebdo”, and so on, to see what their views are on key issues affecting Muslims. The same can be done for YouTube and other social media platforms. You may find that they may have a regular column in a local or national newspaper, for example.
Looking at the current MP in more detail
The latest candidate if they are standing for re-election – can be scrutinised in more detail. This is the case for “MP X” for the Conservatives in Constituency X. By typing in your postcode into TheyWorkForYou, you can see your last MP’s voting history (how they voted when they were in parliament). This is important as the person you vote into parliament is going to be voting for or against key issues affecting both Muslims and non-Muslims. So we can see from MP X’s voting history that he voted:
- Strongly against equal-gay rights and moderately against same-sex marriage – This is something Jews, Muslims and Christians highlighted was a concern as it was implicitly re-defining moral boundaries, and which is arguably now causing all three groups to come under more scrutiny (e.g. from Ofsted) just because of their beliefs in a post-Same-Sex Marriage Act era.
- Very Strongly for an investigation into the Iraq War – This is also good to see as this was a war in which 2 million people – both Muslims and Non-Muslims – opposed on the streets of Britain, and a war which led to the death of half a million to a million Iraqis. We need to know what went wrong in order to avoid such atrocities happening again.
- Strongly for measures to reduce tax avoidance – which is a positive sign as many non-Muslims have raised concerns about this in live election debates.
- Very Strongly for raising tuition fees to £9,000 – arguably not the approach many Muslims and non-Muslims would like to see, as many are campaigning for lower tuition fees or the abolishment of such fees so that their children do not start working life in debt.
- Against airstrikes in Iraq. MPs at the time were warned against the dangers of this aerial bombing campaign and we saw the tragic early consequences of their overall vote for airstrikes.  So MP X did well to vote against airstrikes. In fact he did more than just vote against the airstrikes – with a bit of research we can see he visited the ISIS border in Iraq to see the work of the Peshmerga forces and said we should not have air strikes as: “This should not be a re-run of Iraq 1991.” He then returned back to Britain to defy a Conservative three-line party whip on the issue. (To learn more about whips see this article). This tells us that this is an MP who is not afraid to stick to his principles for fear of being reprimanded.
We can also see from ThePublicWhip.com how many times he rebelled against the party whip. This is important as somebody who rebels often against the party whip shows that this is a person who votes for what they believe in, not necessarily for what they are pressured to vote for. As we can see, MP X rebelled 21 times and on some very important issues. He even resigned his post as ministerial aide because he preferred to defy another three-line party whip to keep the promises he made to his constituents. Lower down, we can also see the percentage (%) with which he agrees with certain policies that were voted on whilst he was in government (note: 50% is used when the MP was absent from the motion, showing they neither disagreed (0%) or agreed (100%) with the motion).
Overall we can see that although there are some measures for which many non-Muslims and Muslims would not like the way MP X has voted in Parliament, he has voted more favourably on many important issues which affected Muslims and non-Muslims as highlighted above. He has also shown that he is not afraid to keep his promises to his constituents. This therefore looks like a candidate who would be worth voting for from the choices available in Constituency X, as it cannot be guaranteed that the other candidates would show such high levels of support on similar key issues affecting Muslims and non-Muslims in the near future. A politician’s actions speak louder than their promises (which are often broken) and MP X has largely shown this with his actions last government.
Step 3 – Contact potential candidates and ask them if they support Muslim Manifesto policies.
You could also email your local candidates the MEND Muslim Manifesto. A summary of the pledges can be found on page 6-7; ask the candidates if these are policies that they would support if they were elected into government. As it is close to polling day and there is not long left, it may be better phoning them or speaking to someone at the office to get a response. This step is important before and after Election Day, as it is important to get MP’s thinking about and making a commitment to tackle issues which are important to the Muslim members of their constituency (and the Muslim community as a whole in Britain).
Also watch the recordings or news reports of local hustings for your constituency (and visit any if there are last-minute shows) – and challenge your candidates with critical questions.
What if there is not much difference between the candidates?
After researching online and contacting local candidates, if a Muslim cannot see much difference between the 2 or 3 main candidates in their constituency, then they should vote for the candidate whose party appears to have policies which are least likely to do harm to the Muslim community and who is most likely to benefit the majority of non-Muslims in need of help. The Voting Counts ‘Policy Matrix’ should help you see what the main parties intend to do about different key issues. Whilst looking at this Matrix you should take into account that seeking to remove Britain from the European Union or remove Britain from the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) – which has been used by many Muslims    to try to stop them being abused by potentially oppressive governments, is harmful for both Muslims and non-Muslims. This is because of the potential harm and abuse of human rights that this is likely to lead to; the victims being the weak and minority groups in society which includes Muslims (however this is beyond the scope of discussion of the current article). The only exception to this is if those parties field a candidate whom should to be voted for because of their proven support for Muslims, or the candidate has to be voted for in order to avoid a greater evil of an even worse candidate being elected in a certain constituency.
Galvanising Group Voting
Lastly, if possible, discuss with other people in your area whom you are going to vote for in order to ensure – as much as possible – that there is a well informed group vote which makes a difference, and that the voting is not fragmented without much effect.
Hopefully this has given you more clarity on who to vote for and how to go about deciding. Ultimately you are voting somebody into parliament who is going to act on your behalf to vote on key issues. This needs to be someone who is going to vote responsibly on key issues which will affect Muslims and non-Muslims in the next 5 years, regardless of what party they represent. Regardless of whichever parties are in government, we want a parliament that has in it MP’s who will stand up for the Muslim community on key issues, and a parliament – as free as possible – from those who intend to do harm to the Muslim community and to non-Muslims who are different from themselves.
And Allāh knows best.
Marginal seat: Where the current candidate in that constituency only won by a small or marginal number of votes (e.g. only 1000 more votes than the next candidate), thus it is unpredictable who will win the seat at the next general election.
 Safe seat: a seat where it is likely the current candidate for that party will always win due to huge local backing. Thus, the seat is called ‘safe’ for that political party.
 Hustings: events held by local parliamentary candidates in which members of the constituency can ask them questions before an upcoming election.