'A vote for Labour or Tory is a vote for genocide': Leanne Mohamad seeks to steer UK Parliament towards anti-apartheid policies

6 min read
25 June, 2024

It has been a jam-packed few months for 23-year-old British Palestinian human rights activist, Leanne Mohamad.

In addition to tirelessly speaking up about Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Gaza at protests, universities, conferences and local and international events, Mohamad has been leading her election campaign.

On July 4 2024, she will run as Ilford North’s independent parliamentary candidate.

"Our current government and MP's refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza amid Israel's actions demonstrates a disconnect between political leaders and the people's views"

Mohamad was selected as the East London constituency’s independent candidate in January this year and hopes to unseat Ilford North’s current MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

In January, one Labour MP told the Evening Standard that Streeting would have a “genuine battle on his hands” following the selection of Leanne Mohamad.

There are currently over 28,000 Muslims of voting age in Ilford North and in November 2023 the Muslim Census was optimistic that if the Muslim vote in Ilford North was to depart from Labour following the Party’s disappointing stance on Gaza, Muslims could swing the seat from this former Labour stronghold.

Mohamad, who is the granddaughter of two Palestinians and 1948 Nakba survivors and was raised in Ilford, has been extremely vocal about the catastrophic situation in Gaza and has been at the forefront of protests in London every Saturday.

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Like many Muslims and Palestine supporters in her community, she was appalled at the Labour and Conservative parties’ stance on Gaza and their refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Gaza is at the top of her list when it comes to foreign policy issues. She is advocating for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, a UK and international arms embargo on Israel, and the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes at an international law level.

“Our current government and MP's refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza amid Israel's actions demonstrates a disconnect between political leaders and the people's views,” Mohamad tells The New Arab.

“My political stance aligns with the public's values of peace and justice. The destruction of Palestinian homes, hospitals, schools, universities, churches and mosques is clearly a genocide.”

Mohamad adds that part of her campaign includes calling on the UK government to recognise an independent Palestinian state with access to its own resources and an end to the system of apartheid Palestinians suffer under the hand of the Israeli government.

While Mohamad has her finger on the pulse when it comes to Palestine, it is not the only item on her campaign agenda.

Having been a local youth worker at Ilford’s Frenford Youth Centre and a volunteer at food banks during the pandemic, Mohamad is well aware of the backbreaking effects of the cost-of-living crisis on her local community.

She has also witnessed and felt the neglect of the NHS in her area.

"The Conservatives and Labour allow energy and water companies to make record profits... while the rest of us choose between heating or eating"

There’s a wide range of domestic issues she is campaigning for, including making Ilford North’s streets safer and advocating for fair wages, affordable housing, accessible social services and increased investment in education, youth centres and mental health services.

“I'm no career politician, my ambition is that we rise and fight together against the continued neglect of our community. From disregarding Gaza to advocating NHS privatisation, our voices are consistently side-lined,” she clarifies.

“Despite political shifts between Conservatives and Labour, there is no meaningful change that would help the people. Instead, both parties allow energy and water companies to make record profits, which are celebrated on the front page of newspapers, while the rest of us choose between heating or eating.”

While out canvassing, Mohamad says the disenfranchisement residents in her community feel towards Labour and the Conservatives is as clear as day.

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She has witnessed a real hunger for change in her community and says residents no longer believe that either Labour or the Conservatives are able bring that about.

Mohamad adds that so far, Ilford North’s reception of her has been fantastic.

“I have had people after a short conversation say that they will vote for me as they really see a positive difference in my policies and they can see that I will be locally accountable to the people who elect me, rather than those that pull the party strings behind closed doors,” she shares.

“This includes mobilising those who have never had a reason to vote before, as they suddenly have a candidate who represents them and their interests. We can feel the energy on the doorstep — people want a change.”

“A vote for Labour or Tory is a vote for genocide... An abstention is a silent vote for genocide. This is literally a life-or-death issue now"

With Islamophobic attacks on Muslims on the rise since October 2023 and accusations of Islamophobic treatment from within the Labour Party by the likes of Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum and former Labour MP Faiza Shaheen, combatting Islamophobia and racism is also high on Mohamad’s list of priorities, particularly given her background in human rights.

“Islamophobia definitely feels as though it is on the rise, especially with some of the rhetoric of the far-right parties. Islam is being demonised as something foreign, scary and not to be trusted,” she says.

“This is far from the truth. Islam has long been a part of Europe and encompasses fairness and tolerance of those of different faiths and backgrounds, rather than any compulsion in religion.

"As a human rights campaigner, I will work tirelessly to make sure that those rights are upheld for everyone in Ilford North, and as a Member of Parliament would strive for policies to uphold this throughout the UK.”

With the General Elections fast upon us and mainstream media outlets projecting a landslide win for Labour, Mohamad argues that every vote from the British Muslim community counts.

She says that abstaining from voting because you believe Labour will win anyway is in itself a vote for the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

“A vote for Labour or Tory is a vote for genocide,” she says. “An abstention is a silent vote for genocide. This is literally a life-or-death issue now. 

"We are very fortunate in that we have abundant clear evidence and no further argument that Muslims have no place in the Labour or Tory party.

"We need a third way so that British Muslims and pro-Palestinians across the spectrum can unite under independents and people of conscience to steer the UK Parliament towards more ethical and anti-apartheid policies.”

Yousra Samir Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author based in Yorkshire. She is the author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, published by Hashtag Press

Follow her on Twitter: @UNDERYOURABAYA