Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Campaign set up to to get Muslims to vote

By Sabina Alderwish
BBC Asian Network

Get out and Vote

Leading Muslim scholars have given their backing to a campaign to try to get more people from their community to vote in the general election.

A Get out and Vote website has been put together in a strategy to encourage Muslims to make it to the ballot box.

There is a large population of Muslims living in 50 UK parliamentary seats.

Imam (Muslim priest) Abu Eesa Niamatullah told the BBC Asian Network: "Despite the fact we have large numbers we are not making our presence felt."

It is expected that this year's election will be a close contest and Imam Abu Eesa from the Prophetic Guidance Project says the Muslim vote could be a key factor.

Inactivity is the worst thing - We might not make any difference but at least we will have tried
Imam Abu Eesa Niamatullah

He believes Muslims can have a real influence, especially at local government level where "the Muslim vote could be the difference," he said, "for a candidate who is for progression and peace".

Other Imams backing the campaign are Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad from the Islamic Sharia Council, Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam from Darul Iftaa in Leicester, Mufti Zubair Butt from the Al Qalam Institute Bradford and Tarek al Diwany from the Zest Advisory.

"I'll be voting because I want the right representative for my community and my town in parliament," said Mr Butt.

Shariah law

Sparkbrook and Small Heath in Birmingham has the largest percentage of Muslim voters of any UK constituency at 48.8% according to the 2001 census.

And the Get Out and Vote campaign also aims to address a concern in the Muslim community where there is uncertainty about voting for a government that does not comply with Shariah law, which is Islam's legal system derived from the Quran.

Some Muslims feel that the British system of rule often contradicts, and can at times oppose the Shariah, such as when it comes to laws on abortion and alcohol.

They feel by voting for parties who back such policies they are going against their own Islamic beliefs. Others say the rules on police stop and searches violate their civil liberties and, therefore, they cannot support such a system.

Imam Abu Eesa says he respects the difference of opinion and by encouraging Muslims to vote he insists it is not declaring that Shariah law is finished.

"It's an affirmation that while living under the rule of man we will try our best to create a scenario that will benefit our community and the British citizens at large in the best way possible," he said.

"Inactivity is the worst thing. We might not make any difference but at least we will have tried.

"It (voting) is a privilege a lot of people die for. We in the UK have got it. We should use it."

You can hear more on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.

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