British Muslims and a coalition of mosques have condemned Labour MPs who failed to vote for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
On Wednesday, 125 MPs voted for a ceasefire while the vast majority either voted no or abstained. A number of members of Parliament are facing particular criticism for having appeared to support a ceasefire in public statements but then either abstaining or voting against in the whipped vote.
Hundreds of students marched to the office of Rushanara Ali on Thursday, after the MP for Bethnal Green did not vote for a ceasefire despite making multiple statements in support of one.
Keir Starmer’s stance on a ceasefire in Israel has attracted criticism
Later in the evening, a crowd gathered outside her constituency office in east London chanting ‘Rushanara Ali, shame on you’ and holding placards saying ‘Not my MP. Blood on your hands’.
Explaining her actions on Twitter, Ms Ali wrote after the vote: “I have long supported a ceasefire. Tonight I have abstained from voting for the SNP’s motion.
Labour’s Rushanara Ali abstained in the vote
“Leaving the shadow government is something I’m always willing to do, which is why I completely respect the decision taken by my fellow MPs today,” she continued. “The moment I think my presence is less positively impactful than my absence, I will do so.”
MP for Preston Mark Hendrick is another Labour member facing criticism for abstaining on Wednesday’s vote.
Mukhtar Master, Muslim Faith Representative at Preston City Council, and organiser of the Preston mosques coalition said: “The mosques of Preston feel let down and betrayed by our MP Mark Hendrick. After the mosques reached out to Hendrick he wrote a compelling letter to Keir Starmer calling for a ceasefire.
“However… he actually abstained in Parliament at yesterday’s vote,” he continued. “The Muslim community are done with Hendrick now and we will never trust this individual ever again. Nothing is more important to Muslims right now than this issue.”
Mr Hendrick issued a statement addressing his position on his website, as he backed a Labour amendment to the ceasefire proposal.
Local leaders say “nothing is more important right now than this issue”
“Whilst the [Labour] amendment doesn’t go quite far as I would like on the issue of a ceasefire, it does offer a good compromise,” he wrote. “The Labour amendment, apart from calling for the ‘cessation of fighting as soon as possible’ it does, unlike the SNP amendment, mention the situation in the West Bank in terms of illegal settlements and Settler violence; and calls for ‘humanitarian assistance on a scale to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza… I believe this to be the more practical and realistic process towards a ceasefire, which we all hope will one day lead to a two-state solution.”
But for many Muslims in Britain, the decision to not call for a ceasefire outright is unacceptable.
For Mubin Dawood, who leads Noor mosque’s food bank, the compromises are not good enough. He feels Labour’s leadership is “tarnishing” the reputations of its members.
“When you stand under a banner, you represent that banner,” he said. “You need another banner if you’re powerless.”
Mr Dawood said there was “unprecedented hurt” in the community, with a “tsunami” of Muslims ready to show it at the next election.
“These are not the mosques of twenty years ago,” he added. “These are not little brown sahibs. People are educated, they know how things work.”
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One mosque leader told the Independent Muslims felt “disgusted” by Labour’s position in not calling for an immediate ceasefire, and that it signified a “line drawn in the sand”.
The Imam said: “Our community is a very peaceful community, it is one of compassion and empathy towards the unsheltered, victims of natural disasters and so on.
“For us not to have an aching heart and an emotional drive about what we see as blatant human rights violations against people being shredded to pieces across our screens, it’s like they’re not human beings, it’s impossible.
“There would be more outrage in the west if a zoo with innocent animals was being bombed every day. This is why we can’t turn away when we see our brothers and sisters being killed mercilessly. This is about saying ‘not in my name.’”
More than 50 Labour councillors have resigned over the Gaza crisis with Labour losing control over both Burnley and Oxford Councils in the process. Eight shadow ministers quit over the ceasefire vote on Wednesday and two parliamentary secretaries.
In a blow to Keir Starmer, 56 MPs defied the whip to vote in favour of the SNP amendment in support of a ceasefire.
Since the vote, Sir Keir said he was more focused on the plight of people in Gaza than managing the splits within Labour.
“Of course I want us to move forward as united as we can as a party, but you wouldn’t expect me to stand here today and say my concern is the Labour Party management rather than the hostages and the innocent civilians and children that are dying in Gaza,” he told ITV News.
“My focus and attention is there, and that’s where it is and where it will always be.”