Why Bother Voting?

By Waquas Ali, The Muslim Weekly, April 2010

This general election will likely be the closest in a generation with the most likely outcome being a hung parliament. Given at least 50 seats (out of a total of 650) have a large Muslim population; the Muslim vote could be vital in deciding which party emerges as overall victor. These aren’t empty words rather check the facts for yourself in the www.getoutandvote.info statistics section.
Historically the mythical ‘Muslim vote’ and demonstrations were not able to stop our government getting involved in the ill fated and bloody attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. At home it failed to prevent unwise policies on control orders, 28 days arrest without charge, or even obscene expense scandals to name a few examples. Are we therefore right to believe the ‘Muslim vote’ is really a figment of the imagination? The answer is “No”.

Perhaps it is unrealistic for Muslims who voted previously to quickly expect major improvements in national / foreign policy. Perhaps such a change will only occur if Muslims proactively lobby politicians and join mainstream political parties in large numbers.

However, at a local level, even if we only vote and do nothing else, we can still make our own MP’s more accountable. Over half of the British Muslim community lives in only 50 parliamentary seats, within which, on average they form over 20% of the population. Ensuring these 50 MP’s do not take their electorate for granted is a realistic and achievable target this election.

From an Islamic perspective the Almighty warns us, “Be sure that Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.” (11:13) Ours therefore has to be a tradition of action, aimed at both the short and long term, based upon sincerity and effort, secure in the knowledge of reward from our Creator regardless of outcome.

For those who have previously not bothered voting, or are just now old enough to vote for the first time, and who expect great things from politicians without putting much effort this should be food for thought.

Now consider the alternative. Choosing not to vote means sending politicians a message that they are not going to be held to account by their electorate. As part of the checks to stop election fraud political parties know who voted (not how they voted) and from the names judge who is a Muslim.

As Muslims, a core value we all hold dear, is that one day, we will personally be held to account for our actions good or bad. Is it not right that those who wish to rule over us also have to face some accountability from their electorate? Will this not directly lead to politicians behaving better?

To get out and vote is but a small first step on a long path, which will necessarily involve joining political parties, lobbying MP’s and so on. Even if this political system may not be ideal from a shariah perspective, it nevertheless is Islamically important for us to support any decent and beneficial policies.

To succeed in this challenge is to succeed in being Muslim and being British. It is to succeed in remembering the next world, whilst playing a full part in this world. It is to signal our desire to promote policies which will benefit non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

To fail in this challenge is to accept that being Muslim is not compatible with being British. It is to withdraw from this society and prefer to live in our own parallel communities. It is to condemn Muslims to always be on the fringes of society.

Consequently, deciding to vote, and by extension, to get involved in the political process is of crucial importance. The only question to now ask yourself is; are you bothered? Bothered enough to learn about the policies of the various candidates standing in your locality and get out and vote accordingly?

This choice is yours to make, and for you alone to be held accountable for.

Get Out & Vote! www.getoutandvote.info

The above article is the second in a series of three articles on the subject of Muslims and voting.

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