British Muslims & The Alternative Vote, 5th May

From 1st Ethical Trust | Imam Abu Eesa Niamatullah

Perversely, as article titles get even longer, the era of Facebook and Twitter has forced the revival of the well-calculated acronym. With only 140 characters to play with, we can forgive the decision to shorten “the Alternative Vote” to “AV” even if it leads to the death of the usual AV-guy at our conferences and concerts as he jukes the sound system.

Altogether more worrying though is when other abbreviations such as BO (Barack Obama) and OBL (I won’t insult your intelligence) start to dominate the headlines with news that really isn’t news, and worse divert our attention from local matters that actually are quite significant.

In any case, lets get down to business.

British Muslims face a big question this Thursday 5th of May 2011 when they’ll be voting either to keep the current FPTP political system which chooses members of Parliament, or to change for a different system called the Alternative Vote (AV) which could lead to a few significant changes in who and how new members of Parliament will be elected.

I’m not going to bore you with details on what AV actually is and how it works because (a) I don’t 100% understand all its permutations myself along with much of the rest of the population (although Johann Hari proves me wrong fabulously well!) and (b) because there are plenty of other good folks who have done a great job preparing explanations that will bore you at varying levels. Here’s the least boring (and thus best), and here’s the most boring (and thus, well, you work it out.)

Because not everyone out there is sad enough to be obsessed with politics like I am, I have been asked for some advice to give to Muslims when it comes to this vote. In response to this I should firstly say that there is no obvious correct answer when it comes to whether we should vote yes or no for the Alternative Vote. Despite the fact that the majority of British Muslim political organisations are supporting the YES to AV vote, there are still some interesting Muslim points of view for the NO vote as well such as Yusuf Smith’s thoughtful piece here.

Ultimately, what it comes down to as far as I’m concerned are the following key points:

- we need to monitor carefully what the extremist groups are pushing for, as they will obviously be desperate to try and profit from this momentous occasion in British politics. Note here, that the BNP are campaigning for a NO to AV vote.

- we need to remove hated personalities from the equation. Apart from trying to fathom how on Earth Nick Clegg became more hated in this country than the late Osama bin Laden and Jack the Ripper combined, we must make sure not to vote emotionally and try to punish those like Clegg who fail to honour their pledges. Note here, that Clegg is campaigning for a YES to AV vote.

- despite all potential disadvantages, the AV system will hold MPs more accountable, not allowing them to take the electorate for granted. This is a principle that all people who believe in justice will celebrate, even if the proposed system doesn’t go as far enough as one might prefer. Yet something is better than nothing.

In conclusion, after taking further advice from the political minds that I trust, I feel that we should come together and support a YES vote for AV on May 5th.

We shouldn’t let the mad rush to find OBL’s death certificate, our usual political apathy, previous failures of the democratic system, and the voices of isolationists put Muslims off from trying to promote a system in British politics that will hold more people accountable, and create a political atmosphere that contains less hot air and more real talk. Agreed, to use the “your vote is crucial” cliché will be taking it too far, but this is another part to contribute to an attempt at hopefully bettering our collective situation in this country, at least a tiny bit God willing.

And indeed He knows best.

Reposted from 1st Ethical Trust, Empowering Through Partnership.


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