Muslim voting campaign supported by groups investigated over extremism

Michael Gove named MAB and MEND as among those to be assessed as to whether they meet the new definition of extremism
Michael Gove named MAB and MEND as among those to be assessed as to whether they meet the new definition of extremism - THOMAS KRYCH/ZUMA PRESS WIRE/SHUTTERSTOCK

A campaign to get Muslim voters to back pro-Palestine candidates is supported by two groups under investigation over extremism fears, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Muslim Vote is a nationwide group attempting to coordinate voters to punish candidates that they believe have not been sufficiently supportive of Palestine at the ballot box.

But among the list of its two dozen backers are the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend).

Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, named the two organisations earlier this month as among those to be assessed as to whether they meet the new definition of extremism.

Mr Gove said in Parliament that MAB, which he described as the “British affiliate” of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a group that gave “rise to concern for their Islamist orientation and views”.

He also said that Mend, which promotes participation by British Muslims in voluntary bodies and institutions, would also be assessed against the new definition.

Both groups strongly condemned the Government’s announcement, with MAB accusing Mr Gove of trying to “politicise anti-extremism” and Mend challenged him to repeat his claims outside of parliament.

But Tory MPs have questioned whether The Muslim Vote (TMV) website should be investigated or even be allowed to stay online, because of its associations with the two groups.

Sir John Hayes, a former Home Office minister, said “It’s very important that first of all, where possible these sites are taken down, and any organisations associated with them are blacklisted.”

The website provides a list of constituencies where there is a greater than 10 per cent proportion of Muslim voters, alongside how their current MP voted in the November Gaza ceasefire vote.

The campaign reads: “2024 is the first time the Muslim community is organising – and this alone is a big victory for future elections.

“Ultimately success is that the Muslim vote acts as one and emphatically supports those who backed the ceasefire and protests against those who did not.”

‘Advisory’ candidates

TMV promises to add a list of “advisory” candidates for Muslims to vote for at the next election based on recommendations from local groups.

It also recommends that if voters are not able to vote for a “pro-Palestine, pro-peace” candidate, they should spoil their ballot.

“Our philosophy is really simple: if none of the candidates are pro-Palestine, pro-peace, then spoil your ballot. At least register your dissatisfaction,” the FAQ section of the website says.

Among the constituencies listed on the website is Leicester South, where Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, is standing, and Ilford North, whose MP is shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

Labour faced a fierce backlash over its stance on the conflict in Gaza since the Hamas attacks on October 7.

The party’s current stance, as of mid-February, is that there should be an immediate ceasefire, along with the release of all the hostages and full humanitarian access in Gaza.

But before its shift in position, Labour MPs were consistently targeted by pro-Palestine protesters, with Mr Streeting and Sir Keir Starmer both to be challenged at the next election by pro-Palestine activists.

The campaign has 25 organisations listed as its supporters, and claims to have a reach of more than 20 million monthly visitors.

TMV states that it is not a religious campaign, but a political one, adding: “Of course, all of us are inspired by our Islamic faith in being good citizens and standing up for our community (Muslim and non-Muslim), but the TMV is simply a campaign to effect political change on issues that affect Muslims.”

Extremism definition

Alongside “peace in Palestine”, it includes pledges on finance, education and Islamophobia. It also states its belief that the new extremism definition should be removed.

A spokesman for Mend said the organisation was “one of dozens of Muslim organisations endorsing the Muslim vote campaign”.

“No one would expect anything less than the largest Muslim civil society organisation in the UK fighting Islamophobia (MEND) to support the biggest grassroots Muslim political movement in a generation (TMV).

The spokesman insisted: “MEND is a force for good in society, working with faith and non-faith organisations to ensure community cohesion.”

They added: “The government’s attempt to put us on an extremism list, to distract us from shining a light on their complicity in the Gaza genocide, will not distract us from our work to empower communities.

“TMV is a democratic project of empowerment, we support it.”

The list of groups that meet the Government’s new definition of extremism will be published in the next few weeks after officials carry out a “robust process” of assessment. Mr Gove and James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, will then make a final decision.

It comes after a poll commissioned by the Henry Jackson Society, a counter-extremism think tank, showed only one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7.

A third (32 per cent) said they wanted to see Shariah law implemented in the UK, while just over half (52 per cent) would like to make it illegal to show a picture of the Prophet Mohammed.

TMV has been approached for comment.