Thanks to the many people who have sent me this craven appeal from British Energy Minister Mike O’Brien, trying to woo back Muslim votes that the Labour Party is likely to have lost over the Iraq War.
In it, notes one of the people who kindly sent it in, Peter C.: “Mr O’Brien describes the Labour government as the ‘best friend’ of Muslims and openly boasts that the government have introduced measures against religious discrimination and hatred after requests from the Muslim Council of Britain. He also questions the (Jewish) Conservative leader Michael Howard’s commitment to an independent Palestine among other ‘British Muslim’ issues. As a British citizen I was disgusted but perhaps not surprised that a
government minister would write this.”
From The Muslim Weekly:
Are some Muslims about to vote against the best friend they have ever had in government? Can people really claim that the Labour Government is a friend of Muslims after Iraq? The answer may surprise you.
Understandably, many Muslims are very angry about the war. Traditionally they have supported Labour but some are now switching to the Liberal Democrats, Respect or even the Tories. But the real question is whether there is a danger that anger may be causing Muslims to vote against their own long-term interests?
Putting a cross on a ballot paper is much more than just about expressing anger; a General Election is not some kind of referendum on the Governments` record on one issue. It is about making a balanced political judgment between political parties and deciding which of them should have a majority in a Parliament. It is about the kind of country you want to live in. It is about considering what a Labour Government rather than a Conservative Government has done and will do in the future for Muslims. I suggest that a vote, which weighs in the balance the long-term implications for Muslims, is the right approach.
We all know the importance of Iraq. Indeed, some people will try to convince you that it is the only issue that matters. Most however, will look beyond Iraq to also consider other issues such as the fate of the Palestinians. Despite the many setbacks over the last few years, the creation of a Palestinian state is a cause that the Prime Minister has repeatedly raised with great conviction and never abandoned. He has even declared it to be his personal priority. It is the key to peace in the Middle East. He has long advocated a two state solution, Palestine and Israel, side by side, both at peace. The reality is that the only way a Palestinian state will be created is if Israel is prepared to concede land it currently occupies on the West Bank and Gaza. Whether we in Britain like it or not, the reality of the modern world is that only the Americans can influence Israel. And it seems only Tony Blair has any influence with the Americans. Can anyone seriously imagine that Michael Howard or Charles Kennedy would be able to significantly influence George W. Bush? If they do, then they need to join the real world. The Prime Minister who has the most political clout to help the Palestinians is Tony Blair….
Are you still unconvinced that the Muslims need or should want a Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street? Well, let”šs compare Tony Blair with previous Prime Ministers. He is the first Prime Minister to have ever read the Qur”šan, to quote from it and to talk about it. Can anyone imagine Margaret Thatcher or John Major doing the same? Whilst in opposition, Tony Blair had developed a genuine dialogue and relationship with a number of Muslims and Islamic organisations, based not just on getting votes but also on his interest in assisting Muslims achieve their rightful place in British life.
After 1997 Muslim groups were welcomed into the Home Office, the Foreign Office and 10 Downing Street. For the first time ever, four Muslim peers were appointed to the Lords and the first Muslim Labour MPs were elected. Even today, no other Party has a Muslim in the Commons. Labour is also the Party that has the largest number of Muslim councillors. We are proud of this achievement, but we have not yet finished. If you ask who are the only Party running Muslims in seriously winnable seats for the next election, the only answer is Labour.
The Muslim Council of Britain has been at the forefront of lobbying the Government on issues to help Muslims. Recently Iqbal Sacranie, the General Secretary of the Council, asked Tony Blair to declare that the Government would introduce a new law banning religious discrimination. Two weeks later, in the middle of his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Tony Blair promised that the next Labour Government would ban religious discrimination. It was a major victory for the Muslim community in Britain.