LONDON – British Muslim lawmakers have criticized PM Theresa May for scheduling general election on June in the middle of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, accusing her of ignoring Muslim voters.
“The fact that the general election will fall in the middle of Ramadan is not ideal,” Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, told Evening Standard on Thursday, April 27.
“Holding an election during Ramadan means there could be a disproportionate effect on voter turnout in those constituencies with a sizeable Muslim population.
“If anyone thinks that their ability to go and vote will be affected, I urge them to register for a postal vote.”
Earlier this month, May announced the intention for a general election to be held on June 8th.
While the general election will need to be approved by the Parliament, British Muslim politicians from Labour and the Scottish National Party fear reduced voter turnout among Muslims during Ramadan.
“It is unfortunate that Theresa May has scheduled the election to take place during the holy month of Ramadan,” Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, said.
“I know this will present challenges to Muslim voters and those who wish to campaign. At best I can only suggest that this did not even feature in her thinking, which is disappointing.”
She added: “It may be that the election falling during Ramadan reduces turnout among Muslims.”
SNP MSP Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, also voiced fears that fewer Muslims will vote, adding that “you can never really hold an election at a perfect time”.
“I think it would be fair to say that a lot of people in the Muslim community feel that they were certainly not even factored at all into the conversation or the thinking because it will have an impact, I suspect, on turnout,” he said.
Unlike Muslim lawmakers, the umbrella British Muslim group, Muslim Council of Britain, said it could see “no reason” why holding the election during Ramadan should have any impact on Muslims turning up to vote.
“There is probably more ‘voter fatigue’ generally across the country following the extensive recent campaigns in the lead-up to the 2015 general election and the 2016 EU Referendum,” MCB said.
“Muslims fasting during Ramadan will go about their normal daily activities and taking time out to cast a vote will have no impact on their choice to do so.”
Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei OBE, chairman of the Al-Khoei Foundation, a Shiite Muslim organization, echoed a similar opinion.
“In general, Ramadan and fasting is not supposed to impede normal life. It’s supposed to be a spiritual experience,” he said.
“But for some people, you know, the combination of the hot weather… and lack of foods could be an impediment.
“But the spiritual uplifting of fasting should really make a Muslim more resilient and that should not really be a pretext for not voting, and I encourage everyone to use their right to vote.”
According to astronomical calculations, the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) announced that Ramadan fasting will start in Europe on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.