Labour could soon establish its first-ever Muslim affiliate

Labour could soon establish its first-ever Muslim affiliate
The Labour Party could soon have a Muslim affiliate for the first time in its history.
4 min read
20 May, 2022
Labour Muslim Network called its application a 'historic moment for British Muslims and the Labour Party' [Oli Scarff/Getty-file photo]

The Labour Muslim Network (LMN) announced on Thursday that it has applied to become the first-ever Muslim group affiliated with the British Labour Party, calling the move "historic".

It comes after the network found deep discontent among Muslim Labour members and supporters in a January survey, with 68 percent of valid respondents saying they do not "trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively".

The LMN called this a "groundbreaking piece of research" that revealed "the true scale of Islamophobia" in Labour and British politics more generally.

"It is precisely because of the scale of the challenges facing Muslims – within Labour and beyond – [that] we believe now is the right [time] to become the first Muslim affiliate in Labour Party history," the organisation told The New Arab.

"LMN has been leading the fight against Islamophobia in the Labour Party for well over two years.

"But to achieve our goals, to truly hold the party to account and to enact institutional change, we must be fully enshrined within the Labour and Trade Union movement."

The LMN called its affiliation application a "historic moment for British Muslims and the Labour Party" in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.

"With over 2 million Muslim voters around the country and thousands of Muslim members of the Labour Party, now more than ever we must strengthen our ties within the Labour Party," it added.

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The news has been celebrated on social media with users calling it "brilliant" and "fantastic", though some were critical.

Puru Miah, an executive member of Bethnal Green and Bow Labour Party in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, told The New Arab he "welcomed" the LMN's move, but said this was "with qualifications".

"What we don't need is another tick-box, toothless talking shop or another 'I'm a wannabe MP get me out of here' club," the Muslim former councillor said.

"What we need is an effective body with effective engagement to deal with the structural discrimination within the Labour Party, not just for Muslims but all groups with protected characteristics.

Miah argued there is a "wide perception" of an "Islamophobic local Labour Party" in Tower Hamlets - the London borough with the highest percentage of Muslim residents in England and Wales - alleging this is "reinforced with the targeted deselection of Muslim Labour candidates".

He said this had "contributed, despite warnings, to a landslide defeat", referring to the leader of the left-wing Aspire party Luftur Rahman's victory over sitting Labour local mayor John Biggs in an election earlier this month.

Aspire also stormed the Tower Hamlets council elections, soaring from two to 24 of the available 45 seats to gain control from Labour, which plummeted from 40 to 19 seats.

"We understand the reservations and apprehensions of some within the community," the LMN told The New Arab.

"There is much work to be done to earn the trust and support of some Muslims who have seen and experienced racism and bigotry.

"However, to truly inspire and enact the broad change we aspire to, we must be fully engaged."

The LMN said millions of Muslims have given Labour their "loyal support" for more than a century, adding that having an official affiliate like those from other faith groups and backgrounds was "long overdue" and the "very least Muslim Labour members deserve".

Reacting to the organisation's decision to apply for affiliation, Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell praised those who helped establish it.

"Thanks to [former parliamentary candidate] Ali Milani and the team of hard-working volunteers who came together to form and build the Labour Muslim Network," he tweeted.

The party's national executive committee (NEC) will now consider the group's application, and McDonnell said he hopes the decision-making body "welcomes this affiliation with enthusiasm".

The LMN said the NEC panel will consider its application in May.

"We are confident that LMN meets every requirement and will be accepted in a timely manner," it added.

The LMN is presently listed on Labour's website as belonging to its "friends of" programme, meaning it is considered an informal platform allowing "members with a common interest to represent communities, professions and policy areas".

If its bid for affiliation is successful, the organisation will become a "socialist society", like the Jewish Labour Movement, Christians on the Left, LGBT Labour and Chinese for Labour.

The New Arab has contacted Tower Hamlets Labour and the central Labour Party for comment.