London seminar urges Arab participation in UK elections
The event, organised by the Arab Thinking Forum and the Arab Labour Group discussed the most pressing issues for British Arabs, including Brexit, racism, education, health and Islamophobia.
One contentious issue in the seminar was Arab turnout in the election and the way in which Arabs organised to ensure a high turnout across the community and active participation to lobby the parties they are involved with to change policy.
For the attendees, Syria was one of the strongest criticisms of the Labour Party. Many Arabs in the UK have heavily criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his position on Syria, with many accusing him of being silent on alleged war crimes committed by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Arab Labour Group member Mazen al-Masri at the event emphasised that leaving the Labour party or turning against them is not the solution, according to Arabi21.
He said rather than drawing away from the mainstream political scene, Arabs must instead continue their participation in one of the country’s largest political parties to instigate a change in Labour foreign policy.
"We care about foreign policy, but we also care about internal politics," he urged, adding that "domestically, we reject racism, and we want education and health. Externally, we are against wars and the continuation of the British colonial legacy."
'British Arabs have influence'
Omar Mofeed, a member of the Arab Labour Group told The New Arab that participation is paramount because of the sheer amount of Arabs in the UK and the rise in members of the British-Arab community entering UK politics.
“According to the national association of British Arab (2011) report, there are more than 350 thousand Arabs living in the UK and in the last few years we have witnessed a rise in the Arab community's political involvement in the UK political system, with more Arabs are joining political parties.” he said.
He said supporting the Labour party in the upcoming election is more important than ever, with the rise of xenophobia.
“The Labour Party was one of the first parties to add Arab candidates for the general election, also the Labour Party supported tens of British Arab to be councillors. This election is critical because we see the rise of racism, Islamophobia, and the anti-immigrant movement.”
“Most of the Arab voters found the Labour Party is the closer to their views, because of its current anti-war sentiments and standing with the rights for all the citizens, and for the many not only for the rich people.”
Mofeed added that Palestine was a pressing issue for British-Arabs as the Labour party has pledged to stop arming Israel and to immediately recognise a Palestinian state.
The Arab Thinking Forum was founded in the year 2000 after former Prime Minister Tony Blair was elected. Since then, the group has declined in its activities but it hopes to revitalise in the coming summer.
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