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Last week, The Muslim Council of Britain submitted an article to The Times of London – once upon a time a paper of reputation – with a call for British Muslims to exercise their civic duty on 7th May. It was as follows:

As we enter the final days of the election campaign, David Cameron and Ed Miliband have encouragingly gone out of their way to woo Sikh and Hindu voters in marginal constituencies. But the message Muslim voters are receiving is that there are ‘good minorities’ and ‘bad minorities’, and the Muslim vote doesn’t matter.That message couldn’t be more wrong. Lord Ashcroft’s parting gift to the Conservatives as he stood down as Deputy Chairman after the 2010 election was a report entitled ‘Degrees of Separation’. In it, he demonstrated how Muslims, who overwhelmingly identify with Labour (47 per cent) over the Conservatives (5 per cent), were one of the key reasons the latter failed to reach a majority. In this election, Muslim voters will have a significant sway in at least 22 seats – a number surpassing the projected difference between the main parties.But does a unified Muslim vote exist? Muslim voters are far from homogeneous. Whilst over 100,000 Muslims are in higher managerial professions and the ‘Muslim Pound’ is estimated to be worth £31bn to the economy, almost half of Muslims live in the 10 percent most deprived neighbourhoods and Muslims are more likely to be unemployed than the average Briton. So identifying what Muslim voters want is not straightforward. But the Muslim Council of Britain’s pre-election research suggests that overall, Muslims simply want fairness not favours. This means protecting Muslims from rising Islamophobic hate crime rather than politicising Ofsted to run expensive ideological witchhunts with taxpayers’ money. It means building a more representative police force rather than passing an ever increasing number of counter-terrorism laws that have put entire communities under suspicion. It also means a fair and ethical foreign policy rather than legitimising the tyrannies that export violence to our shores. It means backing Palestinian statehood rather than putting Israel’s interests before our own.   
 
While the Tories appear to have disengaged with the almost three million Britons who identify themselves as Muslim, Labour still has to work hard to recoup the support it lost following the war in Iraq. Its key policies to this end include a cross-government strategy on Islamophobia and overhauling the toxic Prevent programme. In the new multi-party era, the Greens also recognise this as an opportunity to carve out a new voter base in England, in particular targeting disaffected Liberal Democrat voters tainted by their association with the policies of the current government.Although some Conservative politicians have accepted their collapse in Muslim support as a fait accompli, it is a perplexing phenomenon when so many of the UK’s Muslims subscribe to the faith, flag and family values of the party. In ceding this ground, the Conservatives are also giving up the support of one-third of London’s small and medium-sized businesses, which are owned by Muslims.Lord Ashcroft was right. In modern Britain, no community should feel that any mainstream party that aspires to govern in the national interest has nothing to say to them. Five years on, the Conservatives appear not to have heeded his advice.
However this is the way the editors of The Times decided to publish – not as an op-ed piece as the MCB had envisaged but as a truncated, banal letter to the Editor: 

“Sir, David Cameron and Ed Miliband have gone out of their way to woo Sikh and Hindu voters, but the message that Muslim voters are getting is that there are “good minorities” and “bad minorities”, and that the Muslim vote does not matter. This could not be more wrong. Muslim voters will have a significant sway in at least 22 seats in this election.

Although more than 100,000 Muslims are in higher managerial professions and the “Muslim pound” is estimated to be worth £31 billion to the economy, Muslims are more likely to be unemployed than the average Briton. Hence, identifying what Muslim voters want is not straightforward. Research by the Muslim Council of Britain suggests, however, that most Muslims want protection from Islamophobic hate crime, a more representative police force and a fair and ethical foreign policy.

Labour still needs to work hard to recoup the support it lost after supporting the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, the acceptance by many Conservatives of a collapse in Muslim support is perplexing when so many UK Muslims subscribe to the party’s core values. In ceding this ground, the Conservatives are also giving up the support of one third of London’s small and medium-sized businesses, which are owned by Muslims.

Miqdaad Versi

Assistant secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain”

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