Fasting and Voting

Safya Khan-Ruf - 08 06 17

Today, millions of Britons are heading to the polls. But some worry one community is going to miss out – because they will be fasting.

The General Election happening today falls in the middle of Ramadan, a month where many Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Some MPs have criticised prime minister Theresa May for holding the general election during Ramadan.

Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: “The fact that the general election will fall in the middle of Ramadan is not ideal. Holding an election during Ramadan means there could be a disproportionate effect on voter turnout in those constituencies with a sizeable Muslim population.”

Labour MP for Bolton South East, Yasmin Qureshi, added: “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.”

It would be difficult to truly determine the impact of fasting on Muslim votes, but from the various Muslims I interviewed the general consensus seemed to be that fasting would not have a huge effect on the number of Muslims who turn out to vote.

“Muslims don’t stop living for a whole month! We study, we go to work – I don’t see why voting would be any harder,” said Sarah, a stay-at-home mum.

One engineering graduate, Yusuf, said: “It’s not like all Muslims are going to vote – but those who plan on voting won’t be stopped because of their fast. As for those who won’t be voting, Ramadan would not have been the deciding factor.”

London Central Mosque. Courtesy of Loz Pycock/Flickr

Sughra Ahmed, a community activist, believes Ramadan could potentially have the opposite effect and encourage Muslims to vote. “People are more conscious of the little things in Ramadan and there could be a greater sense of honouring their civic duty. Hopefully this will cause a swing in the other direction,” she said.

Ahmed believes the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London that left a total of 35 victims could also drive Muslims to vote. “There is a sense of wanting to take action against evil and this election is the closest opportunity to make a decision as a nation.”

The two main parties are proposing very different methods to improving security and preventing another attack. Ahmed believes this election could be a good ‘litmus’ test to determine the direction the country is heading in.


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