Muslim leaders to offer voting advice to faithful

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The Independent Online
Muslims leaders are about to enter the political arena with a document intended to guide Britain's two million followers of Islam on how to vote at the general election. At its heart will be demands for policies to strengthen the family and to combat the decline in moral standards, which imams see at the heart of the problems of contemporary society.

The pamphlet is based on the example of the "Common Good", a similar document published in autumn by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and which was interpreted as giving the church's backing to Labour.

The Muslim announcement came hours after Church of England bishops pledged to comment frequently on the ethical basis of political issues between now and the election.

News that the Council of Imams and Mosques of Great Britain was working on its own document was given by its chairman, Zaki Badawi, in Cambridge on Friday. Economists, theorists and theologians gathered to formulate a response to the "Common Good", which endorses Labour policy on a minimum wage and attacks a Tory legacy of internal markets in health and education, contract culture, quangos, the undermining of a public-service ethos and the widening gap between rich and poor.

"The 'Common Good' is based on Islamic principles," Dr Badawi said. "No Muslim would object to most of what it says." But it did not focus enough on the family. "Our document will not tell people who to vote for, but what to vote for, and will have a very extensive section on the family. The Muslim family is stronger than most families in the West but it is under threat." The place of women was a key concern. Muslim family stability had been based on exploiting women, he said, so if secular society was to give Asian women more rights "we have to look at what changes need to be made to the family".

Anglican bishops met last week to discuss the election. On Friday they said in a statement that in voting Christians should be "advocates for those excluded from access to well-being or influence in society". They singled out the homeless, the unemployed, the old, the mentally ill and the Third World poor. "We intend to discuss and question the theological and ethical principles at stake in the election ..."

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