Muslim groups accuse Labour of 'taking their votes for granted'

A group of prominent Muslim-led organisations from Batley and Spen have written to the leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, to express “serious doubts” over whether they can continue with their support.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:30 pm
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on a visit to Batley earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

The group - which includes the Ansaar Organisation, Madressa Mahmoodia, Batley and Dewsbury Friends of Al Aqsa, Hilal Islamic Centre and Masjid/Bosnian Cultural Centre, and Al Hashim Academy - feel that their votes and voices “have been taken for granted”.

They say Mr Starmer has failed to engage with the Muslim community, including on his visit to Batley and Spen earlier this month.

The open letter urgently requests policy clarifications and actions regarding Islamophobia and the situation in Palestine.

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Sir Keir has written to the groups in response to their letter, saying 'I will do everything in my power to root out Islamophobia in our party'

The letter states: “For over 40 years Muslim communities throughout the United Kingdom have supported the Labour Party loyally.

“In Batley and Spen particularly, through different leaders, times and political climates, our community has been amongst the most steadfast Labour voters anywhere in the country.

“We are writing to you today as representatives from different mosques and Muslim organisations across Batley and Spen because after decades of supporting this party, knocking on doors, organising voter turnout drives and so much more, we are now in serious doubt over whether we can continue with our support.

“Unfortunately, it seems that while we have been proud to support the Labour Party, for a long time the Labour Party has not been proud of our support. Put simply, our votes and voices have been taken for granted.

“The issues facing Muslims in our constituency are vast and deep-rooted. Some are consistent with those you may see in areas similar to ours; a lack of housing, school resources being cut, closing GPs and hospitals etc.

"Others are specific to our community and our area. This includes concerns regarding the rising tide of Islamophobia, the racism inherent in the Prevent duty, as well as ongoing international crises in Palestine, Kashmir, Xinjiang and beyond.

“If we are to continue supporting and fighting for the Labour Party, our expectation is for Labour to be on our side.

“It is as painful for us to say, as we hope it is for you to hear, that this long-established relationship between our community and the Labour Party - which we have given so much to - is in this difficult position.

“Our reaching out is with the singular intention of repairing this relationship. With all due respect, we cannot stress enough the urgency of the Labour leadership to take the above seriously.

“If the needs and issues close to our hearts are not addressed, it is inevitable that local congregations, members and communities will conclude that the Labour Party no longer have our best interests at heart.

“We hope this can be avoided, and that the Labour leadership respond positively to the above.”

Replying to the open letter, Sir Keir reaffirmed his commitment to fight Islamophobia on all fronts, including within the Labour Party.

He praised the Muslim community in Batley and Spen and said they would always have a political home in the Labour Party.

Sir Keir said: “Your steadfast and enduring support has been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour Party. And I am clear that we cannot take the support of any community for granted – every vote must always be earned.”

On the scourge of Islamophobia, he added: “The rise of Islamophobia in recent years is abhorrent to all of us. I will continue to do everything in my power not only to call it out but to continue to press and demand for real action from the Government.”

He added: “I will do everything in my power to root out Islamophobia in our party.”

On the issue of Palestine, Sir Keir said: “The Labour Party’s policy position on the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel has not changed - we support a two-state solution where an independent Palestinian state can thrive alongside a safe and secure Israel.

“The continued violations of international law, forced evictions and expansions of settlements are unacceptable and of huge concern.

“There must be an end to the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and an immediate halt to all new settlements.”

And he urged people to support Labour's candidate, Kim Leadbeater, in the by-election on July 1, saying “a vote for anybody else would result in a Tory MP being elected”.