This Ramadan, keep bloodsoaked politicians out of our mosques

This Ramadan, keep bloodsoaked politicians out of our mosques
As British Muslims, we must use our political leverage this Ramadan, starting by boycotting those who sanction Israel's genocide in Gaza, writes Nadeine Asbali.
6 min read
27 Mar, 2024
We cannot allow our holy spaces to be co-opted in publicity stunts by politicians who continue to sanction the killing of our fellow Muslims in Gaza, writes Nadeine Asbali. [Getty]

Like every year in our society that demands hollow acts of inclusion and representation, this year’s Ramadan was marked with the usual messages welcoming in the Holy Month from politicians and institutions who seem to forget Muslims exist for the other eleven months of the year.

But this time, Number 10’s standard social media post was taken a step further as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited London Central Mosque (also known as Regent’s Park Mosque) in person on the first day of Ramadan.

In footage filmed on the site of one of the UK’s most prominent mosques, Sunak can be seen shaking hands with the director general and wishing a “blessed Ramadan” to British Muslims.

Like many British Muslims, I was incensed when I saw this stunt. I was in disbelief that a leading figure in the aiding and abetting of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, a politician who has consistently supported Israel and downplayed the atrocities inflicted on the Palestinian people, could be hosted by an Islamic place of worship and sanctuary.

"What do we do with this political leverage that we now hold? Is our goal to simply get a seat at the table, and if so, what are we trying to achieve when we actually get there?"

In fact, so many people shared these sentiments that London Central Mosque’s phone lines became inundated with complaint calls and were eventually shut down.

This, however, was more than a politically tactless event that disastrously misjudged (or disregarded) the feelings of its intended audience. We mustn’t simply write this off as a faux pas.

It has exposed a deep-rooted problem at the heart of our communities as British Muslims and now, in a political climate that is more fraught than ever, we must interrogate how we can move forward.

It has never been clearer that we have the potential to hold significant political sway in this country. The Labour Party is rapt in internal panic at its haemorrhaging of the Muslim vote ahead of the upcoming General Election - according to Muslim Census, there has been a 66% decrease in potential Labour votes, from 71% to just 5%.

It finally seems that a political elite that long took the Muslim vote for granted are finally waking up to the prospect of Muslims abandoning Labour at the next ballot box, even if it is through sheer desperation to cling to a once loyal fanbase.

But what do we do with this political leverage that we now hold? Is our goal to simply get a seat at the table, and if so, what are we trying to achieve when we actually get there?

Is there any merit in representation for its own sake without at least attempting to dismantle the status quo whilst we are rubbing shoulders with the upper echelons of power?

There was another controversial event held this Ramadan that encapsulates this conundrum: the Annual Iftar in Parliament. Although a regular presence in Ramadans of recent years, this year’s event struck many, including myself, as particularly contentious and insensitive.


Just weeks before, the Speaker of the House of Commons had blocked a ceasefire vote in the name of keeping MPs safe from ‘threats’ (read: pro Palestine Muslims).

For Muslims - particularly those in positions of influence in the media and public life - to break fast with some of the MPs who have been most supportive of Israel in recent months, like Wes Streeting and even the Speaker of the House Lyndsey Hoyle himself, smacks of a weakness amongst our ranks that must be addressed if we ever want to use our political influence as a community to actually advocate for our own needs and demands.

What does it say if Muslims will chomp down on samosas in the heart of a system that not only oppresses us at home but sanctions our brutal elimination overseas?

If we’ll engage in the optics of extravagant banquets hosted in rooms where the walls are lined with portraits of our former colonisers whilst our siblings in Gaza face famine, rape and murder?

"If we, as a Muslim community in Britain, want to use our political weight seriously then we need to start being more selective, more intuitive, about what we participate in"

It seems even more important to be conscious of the weight of our actions now during Ramadan: a time in which we should be especially in tune with the collective suffering and issues of the global Muslim Ummah.

As we train our bodies to survive without food and drink during the day, curb our desires and bad habits for God and instead focus our efforts on religious worship, shouldn’t we also be setting aside our careerism and egos to act in the name of something greater than getting a selfie in Parliament? Something more important than hosting bloodstained politicians at our mosque?

I am aware that it’s all well and good criticising these events from afar - as many, like me, have taken to social media to do of late. But how do we actually utilise our political leverage to get our collective voices heard? What’s the practical next step here?

Well, for one, many British Muslims have spent the last six months boycotting brands who have shown loyalty to Israel, from McDonalds to Starbucks.

It’s high time that we see boycotting the institutions that mass produce our subjugation as an extension of this campaign.

Why should the politicians who deal in our destruction get to pose with us in photographs that they can use to sanitise their Islamophobic image?

Why turn ourselves into fodder for a political system predicated on our oppression and violent elimination, to give ourselves, our time, our presence, our morals, just so our hijabs and beards, foreign names and ethnic roots can be used as a tick-box diversity exercise?

If we boycott, if we refuse to attend and make it known that, as a whole, the Muslim community will not buckle to invites for hollow inclusion then perhaps those in power would have to think more carefully about how their actions and views alienate a much-needed proportion of the electorate.


Likewise, if we attend with the intention that we will make our voices known there: if we use these events to approach politicians on their voting histories, to protest in these sacred political spaces against the subjugation we face, then at least our presence has done something more than given us an impressive LinkedIn post.

Politicians shouldn’t get to assent to our genocide abroad whilst partying with us at home and then rest assured on the knowledge that for all the Muslims that boycott and protest, there will always be those who sell out for a seat at the table.

If we, as a Muslim community in Britain, want to use our political weight seriously then we need to start being more selective, more intuitive, about what we participate in and what we abstain from; who we invite and who we exclude.

The government needs to know they can’t break our spirits domestically and internationally and still expect us to break bread with them each Ramadan.

Nadeine Asbali is a secondary school teacher in London.

Follow her on Twitter: @najourno

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