Brexit is constantly being talked about. Open a newspaper, scroll through Twitter or switch on a news channel and it is right there. The constant coverage of Brexit and the negotiations can be puzzling for those who are well versed, let alone for the majority of everyday people.
But what does Brexit have to do with Muslims?
Back in 2016, the overwhelming majority of Muslims – 70% in fact – voted to Remain in the EU referendum. Muslims were eager to remain a part of the European Union. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, the number of reported hate crimes skyrocketed with Muslim and other minorities facing a violent backlash from those supportive of xenophobia and racism.
Since the referendum, the true reality of what Brexit will mean has become more apparent every day. Those advocating for Brexit at the time stood in front of a bright red bus claiming we will be able to spend £350m more a week on the NHS. The reality is we have already seen doctors and nurses leaving and the Government preparing to stockpile medicines in the event of a no deal scenario. The Brexiteers promised economic success due to Brexit but independent studies have shown the softest version of Brexit will result on average in a loss of £500 per head every year.
The reality is what was promised cannot be delivered.
The architects of Brexit have walked away and resigned from the Cabinet – leaving everyone else to clear up their mess. That is why so many people are now calling for a People’s Vote on the deal – or perhaps no deal – the Government return with so the people can make the choice between that deal and sticking with the deal we currently enjoy. You may have noticed the lack of Muslim voices in the Brexit debate, despite being one of the groups who will suffer the most from a botched Brexit.
So, I thought it would be good to get the opinions of a cross-section of the Muslim community on Brexit. What follows is an interview with a Yemeni Sunni from Cardiff, a Pakistani Shia from London, and a Somali (self-professed) Salafi from Manchester. They have asked for their names to be withheld so I shall use surnames only.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Religious affiliation: Salafi
Occupation: Recruitment Consultant
Religious affiliation: Shia
Occupation: Data Analyst
Religious affiliation: Sunni
How did you vote in the 2016 EU referendum?
Mohamed: “I did not vote.”
What were your reasons for voting like you did?
Mohamed: “I didn’t vote because I did not think my vote would really influence the final result.”
Raza: “I voted Remain because I work in recruitment and I knew that if we were to leave the EU, it would be hard to find talent within the UK alone.”
Hassan: “I opted for Remain mainly because the economy, in general, is stronger and policing and criminal intelligence is stronger while we are part of the EU.”
2 years on, would you vote differently?
Hassan: “No, because I am not crazy.”
Mohamed: “I am not sure. If I did vote in 2016, I would’ve voted Remain.”
What are your thoughts on the Brexit negotiations?
Hassan: “I haven’t been following the negotiations, but they seem pointless because we’re on the bad end of any deal.”
Raza: “I think we have just gone back now, with our tail between our legs and we are just begging for anything that will help us in the future. So, I don’t think the negotiations are going very well. I don’t think Theresa May is the right person to even be negotiating. I don’t think she is a respectable and commendable professional.”
Mohamed: “I have heard they are going badly.”
Do you think Brexit will affect you as a Muslim?
Raza: “Yes, because I feel that the number of people in the UK will decrease and Muslims will become more of a minority, making us more of a target.”
Hassan: “Yes, because it will give those who believe in the whole far-right movement more vindication for their bigotry.”
Mohamed: “Yes, it already has. The Brexit vote increased the level of more open xenophobia in society. They’re pushing the boundaries of what society sees as acceptable.”
Why do you support a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal?
Mohamed: “We’ve already seen the negative impacts of a potential Brexit – an actual one would be catastrophic.”
Raza: “It is a chance to put things right. It’s a chance to shape our future. It’s a chance to make amends for what we have done wrong. I think now that we understand the negative impact Brexit would have on our economy and growth in the UK, I support a Peoples Vote to try and change what is looking like a shady outcome.”
Hassan: “I support a People’s Vote because it’s a chance to prevent the effects of Brexit. It also provides a second chance to people that “didn’t bother” to vote or even regret voting to leave or have since changed their mind.”
If there is one message you could give your MP, what would it be?
Hassan: “Along with other Cardiff MPs, she (Jo Stevens, Cardiff Central, Former Shadow Secretary of Wales) already backs a People’s Vote. So I would say – keep up the hard work.”
Raza: “I would request for her (Dawn Butler, Brent Central, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities) to fight harder against Brexit and to try and make sure we do get a second vote of some sort.”
Mohamed: “That she (Lucy Powell, Manchester Central, Former Shadow Education Secretary) should back a People’s Vote as it is in the best interests of her constituents.”
Your MP is from the Labour Party. At their recent Annual Conference, they said all options are on the table, including a People’s Vote. Do you find this reassuring?
Raza: “Yes, I do find that reassuring.”
Mohamed: “No, this sounds like a political cop-out. I would need a full commitment towards a People’s Vote for me to be reassured that the Party has our interests in mind.”
Hassan: “Labour have made some moves on its Brexit policy over the past couple of years so whilst I wish they would go further, I do welcome the movement in the right direction.”
If, like Raza, Mohamed and Hassan, you also believe that the negotiations have gone badly and believe the people – and not just politicians – should have the final say on Brexit, come down and join hundreds of thousands of people in Central London this Saturday (October 20th) at the People’s Vote March for the Future to demand your voice is heard.
Sign up here.
Bashir Ibrahim has written and spoken on Brexit extensively and is currently working on the People’s Vote campaign to secure a public vote on the Brexit deal.