“We hereby state in no uncertain terms that should you fail to modify your position on the issue of Kashmir and by extension, the plight and oppression of the large Indian Muslim minority within India, then we will consider the Labour Party to have simply taken advantage of the Muslim community.”
Over 100 Islamic Organizations Threaten to Boycott UK Labour Party over Kashmir
In a letter to the pro-Modi Hindu Forum of Britain sent on the 27th April 2020, Sir Keir Starmer said that “…Kashmir is a bilateral issue…”. This cosying up with the extremist position of Modi and the ruling BJP was sharply caught out by Muslim activists.
Over 100 British mosques and Islamic centres signed the below letter, threatening to abstain voting for Labour unless it supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination. The letter was sent on the 7th May 2020 and joined a range of voices also reaffirming Kashmir’s right for self-determination, including the Jewish Voice for Labour, the Socialist Campaign Group and Momentum Internationalists. The Socialist Campaign Group includes Muslim MPs Apsana Begum, Imran Hussain, and Zarah Sultana.
Alongside this, the Muslim Council of Britain also wrote to Sir Keir demanding clarification on his position on Kashmir.
Sir Keir’s response came the very next day in a letter to the MCB. Not only did Sir Keir turn back on his letter to the Hindu Forum for Britain, he reiterated the Labour party’s position of giving the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination. Moreover, he took the opportunity to outline the need for a strong relationship with the MCB. It is very encouraging that Sir Keir has responded in such an engaged and responsive way. Clearly, he has acknowledged the strength of the response from British Muslims.
This is a win for the Kashmiri people, and it demonstrates the strength of Muslim collective action. When we unite upon our common concerns for upholding justice and dignity for the oppressed, and intelligently synergise with our many non-Muslim friends, the results are clear. British Muslims should continue to lobby and campaign, holding politicians to account, and upholding the Islamic values of justice.
Here is the letter below.
To the Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Sir Keir Starmer MP
Dear Sir Keir,
We write further to your letter addressed to the Hindu Forum of Britain dated 27th April 2020.
We, the undersigned members of the Muslim community living in the UK (many of whom have families in South Asia), are writing to express our utter shock at the contents of your letter in which you clearly express unflinching support for the Indian Government’s position on Kashmir. This, at a time when the very same Indian Government is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and failing to protect the Indian Muslim community from populist violence, and enacting laws that will potentially render 40 million Muslim citizens in India stateless, which as you well know contravenes international law.
Muslim coronavirus patients are being turned away from hospitals. Kashmir itself has been in lockdown for more than eight months now. India, under the premiership of Narendra Modi, is stepping away from being one of the world’s largest democracies and hurtling instead towards becoming a fascist-led authoritarian state where minorities, Muslims and others, no longer feel safe or protected. It is the members of this very same hate-fuelled ideology who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
We wish to remind you that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue, evidenced by the 11 UN Security Council Resolutions which declare Kashmir a disputed territory and that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, something which was enshrined in India’s constitution under Article 370. The meeting at the Security Council last year on 16th August 2019 is further evidence that this is not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. It is one of the world’s oldest unresolved territorial conflicts that has the potential to lead India and Pakistan into a devastating nuclear war which would have global repercussions. You have not only completely disregarded the international element of the conflict but have also pointedly ignored the Labour Party’s own resolution, voted in at the 2019 conference, which states:
“[We] accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions. The Labour Party to stand with the Kashmiri people fighting against occupation, this is vital as we stand for social justice and ethical foreign policy.”
It would seem to us that holding foreign governments to account over their discriminatory policies and human rights abuses does not seem to be a foreign policy goal under your leadership. As a former barrister, you will clearly be aware of the seriousness of India’s violation of UN resolutions. In addition, you, as the new leader of the Labour Party ought to shoulder greater responsibility on this issue given that the partition which led to this conflict was overseen by a Labour government at the time.
It seems to us that there is an ingrained view that the British Muslim vote has and always will be a secure one for the Labour Party, to be taken for granted with little consideration of the issues and concerns which matter to us as British Muslim communities. In view of the concerns raised above, we strongly urge you to reconsider the party’s position. We hereby state in no uncertain terms that should you fail to modify your position on the issue of Kashmir and by extension, the plight and oppression of the large Indian Muslim minority within India, then we will consider the Labour Party to have simply taken advantage of the Muslim community.
We will, therefore, have no option but to support a call for the Muslim community to abstain from voting for Labour at all upcoming elections. We hope that this will not be necessary and that the Labour Party will continue to stand against human rights abuses wherever they may be. We urge you not to underestimate the strength of our feeling on this issue.
Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) – 17 organisations
Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust – 22 centres
Indian Muslim Federation UK
Muslim Association of Kent – 20 organisations
South East London & Kent Council of Mosques (SELKOM) – 7 organisations
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) – 9 organisations
Al-Hira Masjid Newham
Academy of Inspiration
Al Ansar Masjid
Al-Emaan Centre (Keston Mosque)
Al Madina Mosque Barking
Al Noor Foundation
Association of Muslim Lawyers
Attiq Malik on behalf of Liberty Law
Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society
Brent Central Mosque
BWA Muslim Cultural Centre (New Cross Mosque)
Chingford Islamic Society
Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery
Finsbury Park Mosque
Ghosia Masjid WFIA (Lea Bridge Road Mosque)
Great Barr Muslim Foundation Birmingham
Harrow Central Mosque
Hounslow Jamia Masjid
IG-Soc (“Connecting Muslims in Redbridge”)
Ilford Islamic Centre (Albert Road)
Ilford Muslim Society (Balfour Road)
International Business and Professional Corporation, Redbridge
Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre (JMIC) (Stoke Poges Lane Masjid)
Kent Muslim Welfare Association (Gillingham Mosque)
Lewisham Islamic Centre
Leyton Jamia Masjid MCT
Masjid Abu Bakr
Masjid Al Humera Newham
Masjid-e-Owais-e-Qarni (Belgrave Road)
Masjid-e-Tauheed Manor Park
Muslimah Sports Association
Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC)
Neasden Mosque & Islamic Centre
Newbury Park Mosque
Newham Community Project
Newham North Islamic Association
North West Kent Muslim Association (Crayford Mosque)
Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA) Slough
Qur’ani Murkuz Trust (South Woodford Mosque)
Redbridge Islamic Centre (Redbridge and Gants Hill)
Seven Kings Muslim Educational Trust
Shirley Muslim Association
Sri Lankan Diaspora UK
Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, London
The Mosque & Islamic Centre of Brent
Ujala Foundation Slough
UKIM Masjid Ibrahim and Islamic Centre Newham