Voting, and getting involved in British politics in general have often caused controversy and confusion within the British Muslim community. Some of the more common concerns are tackled below.
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1. “Voting is haram!”
– The majority of the contemporary scholars hold voting within a majority non-Muslim country to be something permissible. Please see this collection of fatawa from a broad array of ‘Ulema.
– From the evidences which allow for getting involved with a system that rules by other than the Law of Allah, is the action of our Prophet Yusuf/Joseph (upon whom be peace) who took up a position in such a government in order to benefit those being ruled, without necessarily endorsing the source of law of the ruling government or system. Please see this article and this article for further details on this issue.
– To enjoin the good and forbid evil is a key responsibility of the Muslim. In today’s society, one of the most effective and easiest ways that one can do this legally is by using one’s vote and thus based upon this, many of the scholars considered it a virtuous action to vote, indeed some even considered it an obligation if it meant there was a real chance at any level in warding off a definite harm/evil by voting in/out a certain party.
2. “You’ll be held accountable if your MP, in the future, supports un-Islamic policies!”
– When one votes for their MP, this doesn’t mean that they endorse everything that said MP will say or do. To claim this is to incorrectly understand the manner in which the British political system operates.
– Muslims don’t participate in the British democratic system because we believe that it is the best political system, but rather because it is the system in place in our country. If we don’t get involved to minimise harm and to maximise benefit, then we just might be held accountable by our Creator for our lack of action. Once we do get involved, we need to consider whom to vote for not only on the basis on what benefits just the Muslim community, but, rather, the entire country.
– A Muslim will only be held accountable for their personal beliefs and actions. If you vote for an MP who then supports military action against an innocent people, you will not be held accountable for this unless you also support that military action, or you voted in that MP because you supported their opinion on such a matter. Yet if you voted in a certain MP because the alternative was far worse, and you do not support their opinions for example supporting war against innocent people, or other policies, then you will only be held accountable for what you intended. As you did not intend this consequence but rather were trying to minimise bad consequences in the general sense, you are safe from any blame, indeed you will be rewarded for your intention insha’Allah.
3. “I can’t be bothered! It’s not really my cup of tea…”
– Unfortunately it seems that many Muslims must feel this way given Muslims are by far the least likely to be registered to vote! This sad state of affairs does not befit the energy and vibrancy that our community possesses.
– Moreover, it is not from Islam to be armchair critics of all the problems around us that we face. Action is what it’s all about, for as Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
“And Allah has favoured those who go out and strive in His way over those who stay seated at home by a huge reward!” (al-Tawbah, 95)
– It goes to follow as the ‘Ulema have stated, that the one who goes out to vote in order with the intention to help their community, or improve local services, or indeed specifically try to make conditions easier for the Muslims, will be rewarded greatly for their efforts. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) said in a fair narration, “The best of you are those who are most beneficial to mankind.” (Daraqutni)
4. “What difference will my one vote make anyway?”
– Let it be made clear at the outset: we certainly don’t expect to change the world with our voting. We don’t even think that at the national level, there will be a substantial change in policies regardless of how we vote. So why bother? Well, consider the following:
– Every effort has to start somewhere. By being organised and voting intelligently, the various parties will quickly become aware of the sincerity of our feelings. It must be made clear to all prospective candidates that the Muslim vote is not either insignificant, or is given towards just one party all the time, or a waste of time and effort for that candidate to fight for. Once mainstream politicians realize that the Muslim community is going to take voting very seriously, and secondly, that they will use their vote in an informed manner, they will become much more sensitive to Muslim issues, and stop treating the Muslim vote as either irrelevant, or something to take for granted.
– The forthcoming General Election will be very close, and the Muslim vote could be pivotal in approximately 50 seats. These votes could make all the difference between one party gaining a majority or a hung parliament – therefore in a close race, like we are due to have, a small number of seats will make a much bigger difference to the final result than an election in which one party is expecting a landslide. The Muslim vote is therefore more valuable in the current climate than it otherwise would be.
– The US presidential election in 2000, was ultimately determined on the back of a few hundred votes in Florida. This resulted in George Bush winning power for the next eight years, and being president during 9/11! What difference could a vote in that Florida election have made and what if we end up in a similar position this year in Britain?
– If you are perhaps understandably disillusioned with politics at the national level, at the local level, there are seats that are under much threat from far right parties with policies that will harm the community and damage our country overall. Thus at least at this local level, in seats where such parties are standing, it is imperative to vote in order to keep the far right from winning seats.
5. “Well who exactly do I vote for anyway? They all say the same thing!”
– This is why we have set up this website and campaign, in order to allow the general public to make the most intelligent and well-informed decision on who to vote for in their local areas.
By studying prospective candidate’s answers to key questions, and the existing MP’s track record, you will be able to make an informed decision which you feel is best for your area. Deciding who to vote for also requires tactical voting. For example:
– Deciding not to vote for a candidate whom you like the most, but who has no chance of winning in your local seat. You can quickly work out who has a realistic chance of winning by viewing previous election results, though these may be skewed by recent boundary changes.
– Deciding to vote for a candidate you like, who has a realistic chance of winning in your local seat, but who happens to represent a party you would otherwise choose not to support.
– Deciding to vote for a candidate representing a party which has no chance of forming the next government, but which does have a good chance in winning the individual seat you are living in.
– Such tactical voting will help to ensure your MP will dare not take your support for granted in the future, and this can only be for the good.
6. “Politicians are all corrupt! They don’t deserve our vote, or to be our representatives!”
– As Muslims, we have an interesting understanding of this question. We see our rulers as a reflection of us – i.e. those being ruled. Therefore, corruption at the top is simply a reflection of corruption and fraudulent practice in general. This perspective requires us all to take responsibility for reforming themselves and our communities and this will in turn influence those who seek to rule us.
– Whilst acknowledging the point just made, one could also contend that popular anger over the recent expenses scandals etc. needs to be put into perspective, given corruption in our political system is far less prevalent compared to most Muslim countries. Whilst this may be true, a more constructive response would be to focus our energies on getting to properly know those who seek to gain election, and using our vote to support that individual who in our view posses most personal integrity, and then firmly holding these politicians to account for the actions they take in the future.
In conclusion, the Muslim community faces a stark choice. Either, to sit on the sidelines, and become expert armchair critics, who have no hope of putting into action our brilliantly argued solutions, or alternatively, to take personal responsibility for the many challenges facing our community, roll up our sleeves, and work hard at an individual level to make a difference.
And actions are rewarded by intentions.
And the Almighty knows best.