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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Persuade me to vote IV
Ahmad graphic
A general election is at the heart of every democracy. But as 7 June creeps closer, millions of potential voters are expected to stay away from the ballot box. Can you help change their minds?

In the run-up to the election, we are asking you to persuade avowed non-voters to try to change their minds by e-mailing us with your reasons why they should vote.

So far you have convinced Joanne Smith and Simon Whiteley to change their minds and go to the ballot box, although our other candidate, Albert Atkin, refused to be swayed.

Next up is 32-year-old Ahmad Alam. Check back on Friday to see whether your arguments convinced him.

Why I won't be voting, by Ahmad Alam:
"I'm a second-generation immigrant. My parents came from Pakistan and I was born in London. I'm British, but I am also a Muslim. I'm married and a father of two. As far as I'm aware the political parties are not tackling issues important to me and that's why I don't intend to vote.

"The asylum seekers issue has been stirred up. I've experienced violent racism and I don't want to again. The asylum 'debate' does not help minorities already present. Religious holidays are also an issue. Why are Muslims, Hindus and Jews not given religious holidays as a right? And will my children be allowed time to pray when they go to work?

I have always voted in the past. But now I don't think the parties have anything to offer me

"Anti-terrorism measures are scary to say the least. Stereotypes of immigrants in this country are powerful, and the tightening of laws seems to encourage more mistrust. There is no difference between the main parties on this and the same goes for foreign policy issues such as the Palestinian situation and that of Kashmir.

"Worst of all is the story of when we tried to get my widowed grandmother to come to Britain. It is a very sad story and the MPs I met during that process gave me the impression of being powerless.

"I have always voted in the past: first Lib Dem, then Labour. But I was young and impressionable. Now I don't think the parties have anything to offer me."

Some of your comments so far:
Ahmad, I think Islam as a cultural, rather than a religious phenomena, is responsible for the repression of women. Because of this I will be voting to restrict the influence of Islamic law on western society. How do you feel about that? If you don't vote then my opinion may be forced upon your way of life and you will have no grounds to complain as you did not protest or participate in the electoral process.
Martin Bentley, UK

Has Ahmad never heard of the quote 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country'? How about voting for policies which may benefit people other than yourself? Why consider that your vote is only useful to the nation if it can be used to benefit you personally?
James Whistler, London, UK

Surely in your constituency at least one party which knows and understands issues facing Muslims will be fielding a candidate? If so, perhaps you could vote for them. Democracy is not and should not be about "voting for the winner" - it's about expressing your opinion.
Alan Lansdowne, London, UK

The election of a BNP candidate in the local elections in Tower Hamlets was due to local immigrants not voting because they thought it didn't matter. If you don't vote, you can be sure that someone with views utterly abhorrent to your own will. Do you really want them to speak for you?
Julie, Guildford, UK

Look at the people in Pakistan fighting for democracy. You should feel lucky that at least you have a right to vote and live in a democratic country where your vote would count. Vote if not for you, at least for your children's future.
Wasif, Hartford, CT, US

As a second generation immigrant myself, I believe Mr Alam should vote to uphold and preserve the rights of democracy that our parents came to seek from this country. He should take a better look at the political parties running in his constituency. Question the candidates running and find out what their foreign policies are.
Khaled Shivji, London, UK

"Issues important to me" - this inward looking attitude is why many people do not vote. I am relieved that you do consider you children's future at one point - but whether they can pray at work may not be as important for them as their education, the state of the health service or the transport network.
John Oker, London, UK

Though he may have been born here he is obsessed with sectarian issues arising from his faith. Does he not pay tax, use the NHS and the education system? I would think these issues should affect him just like any other elector.
Pete Whitehead, London, UK

IR35!! It's the first ever tax regulation designed specifically to harm our most talented IT people, thousands of whom - programmers, designers, engineers - like to work as contractors.
Peter Oakley, London, UK