Thursday, March 24, 2005

Which Way to Vote?

It is claimed that wars are being fought today for ‘democracy’. The vote, the single solitary act, is what, it seems, it is all about. The time approaches again for us to exercise this small amount of power which we have been given. So, as the election approaches, many of us are sitting down to consider who we should vote for. Many, I am sure, will have already decided. Many long term Labour supporters will have decided that the Labour party’s approach towards its Muslim supporters has led them to look elsewhere. The Iraq war features heavily in this. But, let us look at this a bit more analytically.

What are the important issues for Muslims in this country? There seem to be four (these are not in any order of importance). Firstly, because of the class profile of the Muslim community, there is the importance of economic support for deprived areas. Secondly, there is the issue of dealing with racism and the far right. Thirdly, there is the position of the party on foreign affairs, specifically (and most importantly) Jerusalem and Iraq. Fourthly, there is the position of the party towards debt relief. Let us work through each of the three main parties on each issue. There tends to be a cross-party consensus on other issues that concern the Muslim community.

The Tory party argues against a large public sector believing that it should be left to charity. All the energy that Labour has directed towards the inner cities would according to them be directed elsewhere. There may be some truth in the right’s claim on the size and efficiency of the public sector, nevertheless, they would certainly not favour redistribution. Secondly, the Tories are not particularly good at dealing with racism and we are not even sure if they are willing to take anti-Muslim prejudice seriously. Thirdly, the Tory party holds positions on foreign affairs that are completely contrary to Muslim sensibilities and natural justice. Fourthly, the party would not have the same energy as Labour towards international debt relief. So, all round, a fairly poor show.

Now to the Labour party. Firstly, the Labour party directs considerable amounts of money towards the inner cities. Secondly, the Labour party have been poor at dealing with the Far Right, in some cases - as in Ann Cryer from Keighley - they have paved the way for them. The party has also been revealingly slow at finding suitable seats for Muslim candidates. Thirdly, the Labour party has led this country into an unnecessary war the justification of which we now know to be an untruth. The party obfuscates on key issues of international concern and drags its heals on issues of natural justice. This does not prevent its leader from assuming moral postures as and when required. Fourthly, it has led globally on the debt relief problem. So not a particularly good showing, disappointment and disillusionment abounds.

Finally, to the Liberals. The Liberal party is concerned with redistribution towards the inner cities. Secondly, the Liberal party is strong against racism and doesn’t attempt to adopt lesser versions of racist discourse. Thirdly, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, has spoken clearly and consistently on matters of natural justice in international relations since 2001. Robin Cook could only do the same once he resigned from the Cabinet. Fourthly, the Liberals share Labour’s concern for debt relief.

So the Liberal party gets four out of four issues right. Does the single solitary vote count? Yes, if large sections of whole communities change the direction of their voting. And before anyone tries, I don’t belong to a biraderi and a community centre is not enough.

This position is arrived after at after an analysis of the policies of the various parties. There remains some room, however, for tactical or strategic voting which I will discuss in my next post.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

How many Muslims are there in Bradford?

The total number of Muslims in Bradford is 75,188 as of the 2001 census. This counts for about 16% of the total population within the district.

The following are the figures for distribution according to religion.

Total 467,665

Christian 281,236
Buddhist 537
Hindu 4,457
Jewish 356
Muslim 75,188
Sikh 4,748
No Religion 62,226

The following are the figures for distribution according to ethnicity.

Total 467,665

White: British 355,684
White: Irish 3,479
White: Other White 6,878
Indian 12,504
Pakistani 67,994
Bangaldeshi 4,967
Black Caribbean 3,038
Black African 970

Ethnicity and religion data for other areas of the country are available from the census 2001 website. Data can be extracted according to region, city or ward.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

First things first

The following is a poem by Abu Madyan (d. 1198), a North African Sufi.

Say ‘Allah!’ And Leave Creation

Say ‘Allah!’ and leave creation and all it contains,
If you desire to reach perfection.

For all besides Allah, if you reflect upon it,
Is nothing, both in detail and on the whole.

And know that you and all the worlds
- were it not for Him would be effaced and disappear.

For the one who has no existence in and of himself.
- were it not for Allah, his existence would be impossible.

The gnostics have been annihilated and see
Nothing besides the Mighty, the Exalted;

And they see everything but Him as perishing,
In the now, the past, and in the future.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The context

For some reason, unknown to most of us, there has been an excessive media and academic focus upon the Muslim community in Bradford. The suggested reason is that Bradford was, during the eighties, at the leading edge of political campaigns in relation to multiculturalism. The good news post September 11 is that the centre of political activity has now shifted towards London as Muslims have begun to make headway in policy circles. This means that the focus on us here is less intense. Nevertheless, we remain familiar with the odd journalist or academic who continues to visit us here and ask the occasional question. This focus upon the Muslim community has meant that there has developed a cyclical relationship between representation and action, we do things and watch them being portrayed in the media etc. The focus has been negative: religion as a problem, Muslims as a problem, Muslims as backward, troublesome or difficult – Muslims as a ‘bad news’ story. The result is a compounding of a problem. Since we have no ownership of the media commentary on ourselves or the academic outputs, then we remain objects in other peoples’ lives. This weblog is an attempt to provide some space for discussion on Bradford Muslims by Bradford Muslims. It is open to all to contribute. I welcome contributions from everyone as long as they are reasonable, constructive, anti-sectarian, honest and well-mannered – I define all of these criteria from within the Islamic framework. Contributions can include anecdotes, analysis, criticism, commentary and reflection.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The beginning

I begin in the Name of the First and the Last, the Inner and the Outer, the Just and the Merciful. Welcome to this web diary on life in Bradford and other issues.