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UK: Labour cuts ties with major Muslim organisation

The organisation was labelled 'Islamist' by MP Michael Gove in UK parliament last month
Labour leader Keir Starmer (AFP)
Labour leader Keir Starmer (AFP)

The UK's Labour Party has cut ties with one of the UK's most prominent Muslim organisations after the government's communities secretary, Michael Gove, said the group would be investigated for extremism. 

On Monday, Labour told The Telegraph that it had adopted a policy of non-engagement with Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend).

The move signals that Labour supports the Conservative government's controversial counter-extremism agenda.

Mend was established in 2008 and focuses on addressing issues of Islamophobia, discrimination, and social injustice within Muslim communities.

It describes its primary purpose as empowering and engaging British Muslims to actively participate in society while advocating for their rights and interests. Mend's activities include community outreach programmes, educational workshops, and campaigns aimed at raising awareness about Islamophobia and combating prejudice.

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At least half a dozen Labour politicians have previously attended Mend events.

In mid-March, Michael Gove used a speech in parliament to name Mend, along with two other Muslim organisations, as groups the government intended to "hold to account" using a new definition of extremism and accusing them of having an "Islamist orientation". The two other groups named were The Muslim Association of Britain, and Cage.

In response, Mend challenged Gove to "repeat his claims outside of parliament and without the protection of parliamentary privilege".

Labour 'haemorrhaging' Muslim vote

On Monday, the Telegraph reported that Mend warned Labour's move to cut ties with the group would "harm the Labour Party, which is already haemorrhaging the Muslim vote".

Labour has long been considered the traditional political home for the UK’s Muslim community, but the party has faced significant backlash over Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's strong backing for Israel's war on Gaza.

In early February, data collected by Survation and commissioned by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) showed that 60 percent of British Muslims who expressed a preference for a party said they would vote Labour.

This represented a 26 percent drop in support since the last election in 2019, when 86 percent of Muslims previously polled by the company said they had voted Labour.

On Tuesday, senior party official Pat McFadden drew widespread criticism after he appeared to condone continued arms sales to Israel, following the killing of three British aid workers in targeted air strikes in central Gaza.

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