In what was an unexpected decision on the 18th of April, current Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election, despite previous repeated assertions that an early election would be against ‘national interest.’ However, with the election taking place during the holy month of Ramadan, there is a fear among Muslim politicians — particularly Muslim politicians affiliated with Labour or SNP —that the Muslim voter turnout might be considerably lower than usual.
Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali warned that by ‘holding an election during Ramadan… there could be a disproportionate effect on voter turnout in those constituencies with a sizeable Muslim population.’ Some MPs view the scheduling of the election as a blatant disregard of the Muslim vote. For example, SNP’s Humza Yousaf argued that ‘a lot of the people in the Muslim community feel that they are not even factored at all into the conversation.’
Despite these worrying comments from Muslims MPs, the Muslim Council of Britain have recently assured the British public that Ramadan should not really have any significant impact on the Muslim turnout. Yet, with the current climate of political apathy, the hot weather, and the absence of food, I cannot help but worry how this will affect our influence on the democratic process.
As a young British Muslim, I find the possibility of a low Muslim turnout especially upsetting considering the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK, mainly due to the recent, devastating terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. According to the 2011 United Kingdom Census, Muslims make up around 4.4% of the population (3 million), making Islam the second largest religion, and therefore, a substantially important voice in broader society.
The lack of willingness by individuals to take part in the political process could only result in wider alienation, and a decrease in already low levels of political representation. I feel it is important to see voting as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to ensure politicians consider issues that potentially could affect Muslims all around the country, like security concerns, social inequality, the disturbing rise of Islamophobia, as well as issues such as the bifurcation of wealth between the rich and the vast majority of society.
So, I urge you all to vote! Not only does your vote matter as an act of empowerment, but you really can directly affect who leads our country. In fact, research conducted by Geo.Tv suggests that in approximately 38 constituencies Muslim votes are decisive in the outcome of the general election. In constituencies like Bradford, Luton and Slough, who have a large Muslim population, Muslim voters have the power to sway the election results, which is why I urge you — regardless of who you decide to vote for — please make your mark on that ballot paper!