Bradford should vote for Bradford
1. It is up to the parties to select Muslim candidates because they want their parties to reflect the electorate not for the voters to vote for them because they are Muslims, and we all know that any succesful Muslim candidate has to deal with the burden of representation which means that it becomes very difficult to speak on other issues. For all the talent in the community, we have very few political heavyweights. Instead, we should be seeking to mainstream Muslim candidates and support those non-Muslim candidates that support our concerns. It shouldn't be about voting for Muslim candidates. Some people will vote for Mohammad Riaz for example in Bradford East (who is standing for the Tories) because he is a Muslim. He is however most likely to come in third and is in the twilight of his career. The contest in Bradford East is between Terry Rooney and David Ward. It is upto local Muslims to ask each of these candidates on their past record and their current position on a variety of issues. I can't understand how some people think that they will increase their political influence by supporting a candidate that will come in third.
2. What are our concerns? Is there a Muslim vote? I can't see how there can be a Muslim vote unless one has to choose between a very strong candidate (on Muslim-related issues) and a very poor candidate, however, most voters have to choose between two candidates which have positive and negative aspects. For example, one will be good on foreign policy (seeking to uphold international law), another poor; one will be good on civil liberties, the other weak; one could be good on education and international aid, again the other could be weak. So it depends on the candidates and where they stand against a check list on Muslim concerns. What are Muslim concerns? Well, I've heard Muslims argue for more and less taxation, for more and less cuts, so we clearly don't have an economic standpoint. But I suppose if there were several issues that needed highlighting then these could include:
a) upholding rule of law
b) upholding international law
c) mainstreaming Muslim concerns in the delivery of public services
Apart from these, the rest seem to have nothing that could be Muslim-specific about them: education, welfare, international aid. And even then the three points that I've mentioned above are not Islam-specific, but are more about equality before the state which is a concern at present. The contest in Bradford West is between Marsha Singh and Zahid Iqbal. Both candidates should be approached to ask them about how they view the above issues and then people should vote accordingly.
3. Finally, Muslims should vote for Bradford in Bradford. We have a selection of candidates to choose from in five seats. We could quite easily end up with five poor candidates which will mean that Bradford will be relegated to the netherland of political life for another five years. Instead, we need some strong candidates and therefore I would like to suggest that we shouldn't vote according to political affiliation - if we did so, we would get a mix of good and bad candidates, rather we should vote for the strongest candidate in each constituency such that on May the 6th, we'll have five strong MPs selected for parliament irrespective of party affiliation.