Dr Anthony McRoy


Many Arabs originate from countries where is little or no liberty. In many such states, and not only Iraq, the incumbent romps home each time with over 90% of the vote. Free speech is severely limited, and attempts at political mobilisation lead at best to imprisonment, possibly exile, or worse, execution. The ever-present Mukhabarat (Secret Police) watch to quell any opposition. 


It is scarcely surprising that British Arabs are often unsure how to use the rights of their UK citizenship in terms of voting. Especially after some confrontation with the West, such as 9/11 or the Gulf War, Arabs prefer to keep their heads down or think about ‘returning’ home if they can. Yet it is precisely in Western states that the opportunity for ending the oppression of the Arab world exists. Palestine was lost because, in the words of US President Truman, he did not have ‘thousands of Arabs’ among his constituents. The situation is very different now, with around 4 million Arab-Americans and 500,00 British-Arabs. Their electoral activity if properly mobilised could help restrain imperialist adventures. By doing so, they will make their own position more secure. Western politicians are not going to upset an organised voting lobby, as the pro-Israeli lobby has demonstrated in both Britain and America.

Another problem, for Muslims, is whether it is permissible for Muslims to participate in ‘non-Islamic’ politics. Most Islamic scholars, such the Syrian Sheikh Yacoubi, agree that such participation is both halal and even essential. After all, The office of Prime Minister, at least in terms of its mundane aspects, has affinities to the concept of Amir, and Parliament corresponds to the Majlis al-Shura. The best service that British-Arab Muslims can render to the Ummah in Palestine and Iraq is to use their votes to help their suffering brothers and sister.

There is now an active British-Arab community determined to make its mark in British society at all levels, including the ballot box. It must do so, to combat the unimpeded rush of anti-Arab racism from the media, the pro-Israeli lobby and the BNP. An organised British-Arab vote would make them change their attitudes. On this basis, the community leadership will be mobilising British-Arabs and encouraging a bloc, tactical vote for candidates considered sympathetic to British-Arab community concerns. There is a wealth of talent and expertise in the community, but this has not been recognised by British officials, such that there are no Arab MPs or even Peers and very few candidates. 

Previously, party representatives have confined themselves to repeating Foreign Office statements, and make little attempt to understand the domestic considerations of British-Arab citizens. By exercising their democratic right to vote, the British-Arab community – whose votes could be crucial to the outcome in several constituencies – will seek to alter these circumstances. They are ready to play their part in British society; tonight, their questions will examine if British parties are willing to help the British-Arab community perform this contribution. Blair has said he envisions the day when Britain will have a Black or Asian Prime Minister; we should press him to say he envisions the day when the UK will have an Arab Prime Minister.


How can this be done? By forming local electoral committees now in conjunction with NABA. Arab churches, mosques and community centres should invite candidates to pre-election meetings and grill them as to where they stand on issues of domestic anti-Arabism, the marginalisation of British-Arabs by the CRE, and by the parties themselves, and also about the plight of the Iraqi and Palestinian peoples. Candidates should be told that Arab electors will vote as a united community for which ever candidate can offer them the best deal – on issues like providing Arabs with community centres, increased political representation, better health provisions, a more Arab-friendly educational curriculum, noting the giant contributions of Arabs in history. ‘Operation Arab Vote’ could lead to the end of the community’s ‘invisibility’ and its emergence as a strong, influential body of voters, able to defend its interests as UK citizens, and aiding its suffering brothers and sisters in Palestine and Iraq.


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