Britain’s long-expected general election will take place on June 7. British Muslim community groups, meanwhile, have already started campaigns against Islamophobic and pro-zionist MPs. At least three MPs representing the ruling Labour Party in London are in danger of losing their seats.
In the east London constituency of Ilford South, the Association of Ilford Muslims (AIM) is campaigning against MP Mike Gapes, the deputy chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel, the most influential zionist lobby in Parliament. He is also a consistent supporter of western policies against the Muslim world. During the Balkan wars, he opposed attempts in the UN to lift the arms embargo that left the Bosnian Muslims almost defenceless against the Bosnian Croats and Serbs.
In nearby Enfield, Muslims are against Stephen Twigg, vice-president of the Labour Friends of Israel. Twigg (majority: 1433), has also persistently petitioned the government to penalise Islamic Iran for its support of Islamic resistance movements. And in west London Barry Gardner, another Labour Friend of Israel, faces an assault on a narrow majority in his Brent North constituency.
In public, these men dismiss the Muslim challenge as the work of “unrepresentative extremists”, but privately they know that in Britain’s constituency-based electoral system their position is vulnerable. Most constituencies are straight contests between two major parties; where the result is likely to be close, large political interest-groups can find their collective vote holding the balance of power.
The campaigns represent an unprecedented Muslim revolt against Labour, traditionally seen as their natural party. Typically they are led by young, educated and politically aware activists, far removed from the first generation immigrants, usually blue-collar factory workers. Worryingly for Labour, the revolt comes despite the government’s appointment of three Muslim peers and the election of the first Muslim MP. The campaigns suggest that this is not enough for a community that demands real policy changes, not token gestures.
The party’s cause has not been helped by the prime minister’s own zionist leanings. Earlier this year Tony Blair attended a dinner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, a Zionist fundraising organ, despite pressure from Muslim groups who cited the organisation’s support of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories.