On 18th April 2018, a parliamentary roundtable titled, ‘Pathways into Politics: Perspectives from British Muslim Political Leaders’ was facilitated in response to the demand from young Muslims for opportunities to actively engage established Muslim political leaders. We would like to express our sincere thanks to Councillor Hashim Bhatti for helping to co-organise the event.
The discussion enabled the sharing of expertise and experience of the challenges, opportunities and diverse pathways a career into politics can take. Chaired by the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, it aimed to inspire 70 young Muslim leaders from across England at different stages of their professional careers including representatives from civil society organisations, community activists and those aspiring to a career in politics. Ahead of the local elections held on 3rd May 2018, four councillors and two Members of Parliament (MPs) from a range of parties shared their experiences of balancing the diverse needs of the constituents and communities they serve:
- Nusrat Ghani MP (Conservative): Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport.
- Dominic Grieve QC MP (Conservative): an MP for Beaconsfield since 1997 he has served as Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland from May 2010 to July 2014, in addition to Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
- Councillor Salma Arif (Labour): One of the youngest councillors to be elected to Leeds City Council with over 70% of the vote.
- Councillor Hashim Bhatti (Conservative): The first British Pakistani to be selected by the Conservative Party in Windsor for the local council elections and Chair of the youth wing of the Conservative Muslim Forum.
- Councillor Magid Magid (Green): Deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield and the first Green Party Councillor of Somali background to be elected in England.
- Tara Hussain (Liberal Democrats): At just 22 years old, an aspiring local politician who ran as a Local Council candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Tower Hamlets, East London.
All members of British society must feel that they are able to fully participate in political life. However, major challenges to wider BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) participation within local and national political leadership remain. Those from an Islamic faith background stressed that the available pathways into politics continue to appear to be extremely narrow, with the barriers high and access to support and positive roles models low. These challenges are particularly acute for Muslim women. When inclusivity within public services and bodies is absent, they become unreflective of the communities they serve, compounding a broader sense of exclusion, isolation and religious, socio-economic and cultural disempowerment within BAME communities. Therefore, sincere efforts must be made to widen available pathways to strengthen the legitimacy of, and confidence in, British democracy.