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July 17, 2003
Muslims for Labour group launched
Muslims for Labour, aimed to promote support for Britain’s ruling party, was officially launched in Parliament on Wednesday night. Those in attendance included representatives from community groups, local councillors, MPs and two cabinet ministers, reports The Muslim News.
“Ministers, as well as the Labour Party, need to have a much fuller and richer dialogue with the Muslim community in our country and the creation of this new organisation is a major step forward,” Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said at the launch.
The setting up of ‘Muslims for Labour (MfL),’ along the lines of the affiliated Christian Socialist Movement and Poale Zion, the Labour Zionist organisation, follows a year of consultations after being first suggested by E-Commerce Minister’ Stephen Timms.
In an interview with The Muslim News June last year, Timms said it would be an “avenue” for the country’s 1.6 million Muslims to participate in mainstream politics.
Labour has insisted that it was an “independent organisation,” but speaking at the launch, Party Chairman, Ian McCartney, said he fully endorsed the Group and would work with its members “both individually and collectively.”
The purpose of the MfL is to create a new strong channel of communications between Labour and the Muslim community, many of whom have been traditional supporters of the Labour Party. It is being supported by the Party’s two Muslim MPs, the only Muslim Members of Parliament.
“The issue is how we as Muslims interact with the mainstream political process within this country,” said Khalid Mahmood, who was elected for Birmingham Perry Bar at the 2001 general election.
Mohammad Sarwar, who has represented Glasgow Govan since 1997, said that Muslims “want to build bridges with the Labour Party because that is the only way that we can make progress in this country.”
He also urged Muslim youths to become involved and “put themselves forward as candidates” in reference to the gross under-representation of the community in Parliament.
Endorsing the Group, Foreign Office Minister, Mike O’Brien, insisted that by participating “you are ensuring that the voice of Muslims will be heard in the Labour Party and it is right that it should be heard loudly.”
But much scepticism remains whether Muslims will be able to influence policy-decisions or will be used as a vehicle by Labour to manipulate Muslim opinion.
MfL said that it would play an “active role in combating Islamophobia” and inform ministers of “the concerns of the Muslim community and bring their perspective as a faith group to the political debate.”
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