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UK elections 2024: ‘Racist’ takes against pro-Palestine, Muslim candidates spark anger

Social media users push back against media coverage and rhetoric presenting Muslim voters as a monolith and a threat
London Protesters hold placards reading a message for Britain's Labour leader Keir Starmer and calling for ceasefire as they walk past his office during 'Day of Action for Palestine', on 18 November 2023 (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, while winning by a landslide in Thursday's general election in the UK, also lost votes to pro-Palestinian candidates, several of whom picked up shock wins in previously "safe" seats.

Labour's victory has led hundreds of social media users to draw attention to some of the rhetoric surrounding the substantial spate of votes that went to pro-Palestine candidates who ran as independents. 

Takes dismissing the victories of candidates like Shockat Adam, Adnan Hussain and Ayoub Khan and labelling Muslim voter mobilisation as “sectarian voting”, are being slammed as dog whistle racism and repetitions of Islamophobic tropes.

“Muslims, like anyone else, have the right to voice their views in democratic elections,” a representative of The Muslim Vote (TMV),  a UK-based political campaign, said to MEE in a statement.

“The recent Islamophobic remarks from parts of the British media and political establishment are not only narrow-minded but downright embarrassing. Criticising Muslims for electing representatives who oppose war crimes is as clueless as it gets. We won't let this bigotry slide - we're here to stay and make our voices heard.”

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TMV has said it aims to encourage Muslim political engagement and attach a value to the voting power of local Muslim communities, rejecting accusations of “sectarian politics”.

'Normalised Islamophobia'

ITV News correspondent John Ray described those who voted for Iqbal Hussain Mohamed, an independent pro-Palestine candidate for Dewsbury & Batley, as "voting with their religion".

Harry Cole, the political editor of the traditionally right-wing tabloid, The Sun, wrote: “Hamas gain,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Describing people voting against Labour because of their failure to stand up for human rights in Gaza as ‘voting with their religion’ is pretty unforgivable,” another wrote in response to Ray's report.

“So glad you are upset about [Jeremy] Corbyn's win and other Independents and Greens who care about Palestinians and so angry that you feel the need to once again incite hatred against anti-genocide voters and Muslims,” responded one user to an opinion article from the Jewish Chronicle, titled, "This election makes Britain ever more vulnerable to sanitised Islamism".

Faisal Hanif, media analyst at the Centre for Media Monitoring, described the way some media have covered the election as "simplistic" and "shocking".

“Our research has unearthed some examples of blatant Islamophobia and a reductive framing of Muslim voters as extremists, antisemites and motivated by sectarianism," he hold MEE.

"There is nothing to suggest that this won't continue going forward particularly in the right-wing press and broadcasters, some of whom use far-right language when speaking about Muslims."

Outside of traditional media, hundreds of ordinary users also took to social media to comment negatively about Muslim voters in Britain.

“A 5 million block vote is a major threat to democracy. It can not be allowed to form,” said one user.

“Labour have blindly courted the Muslim vote without thought of the consequences. Labour must now deal with the enemy within for the sake of the future of our democratic country,” another user posted.

Social media users responded with anger and disappointment, with many warning of normalised racism and Islamophobia driving the conversation.

Several users underlined that such analysis reduced Muslim voters as a voting monolith and dismissed how Muslims are part of British society.

“The Islamophobia begins,” shared one user.

"To some in @UKLabour party this is 'shaking of the fleas'. To us it is indicative of the deep rooted rot of Islamophobia within the Labour Party," posted the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) on X.

Other users highlighted that anger over London's response to Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed over 38,000 Palestinians, is not religion-specific, and is reflected in other parts of society

For months, UK voters have criticised Labour over its approach to Israel's ongoing war on the Gaza Strip. 

The party has not called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and was accused of purging left-wing candidates and critics of Israel in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Starmer also appeared to back Israel's decision to cut Gaza from power, water and other necessities initially, despite legal experts condemning the move as a war crime.

Even though Labour recorded a landslide victory, its vote share stood at just 35 percent - 1.4 percent more than 2019, when it suffered a crushing loss to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, and five percent lower than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour win in 2017.

The Green Party also made gains, having campaigned heavily in several areas on its support for a ceasefire in Gaza and the suspension of arms sales to Israel, quadrupling the number of their seats in Parliament.

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