Leaflets urging Muslim citizens “DON’T VOTE” that were distributed in public places around Tower Hamlets on Thursday have been called “a travesty”.
The leaflets, which were discovered and reported by local residents, said: “None have the right to legislate except Allah. Appointing an MP as a legislator is shirk (polytheism).”
Shirk is the sin of worshipping more than one deity, which is forbidden in Islam. The leaflets also said: “Democracy is a system whereby man violates the right of Allah and decides what is permissible or impermissible for mankind, based solely on their whims and desires. #StayMuslimDontVote.”
Rabina Khan, a Tower Hamlets councillor who is running for mayor in the June elections after her former party leader Lutfur Rahman was ousted from power, said: “The leaflets are a travesty. It is ironic when we have fought so hard for immigrant communities to be treated with equal concern and respect, that people calling themselves Muslims are attempting to prevent us from exercising our right to vote.
“We send a message loud and clear to those behind these leaflets; that no kind of extremist will prevent us from participating in a democratic society as equals”, she continued.
Around 346 police were stationed over the borough for the election after the former mayor Lutfur Rahman was last month deposed from power after being found guilty by the High Court of electoral fraud in the 2014 mayoral election. Mr Rahman, who was the first directly elected Muslim mayor in Britain, was also accused of spreading racist rumours about his opponent, John Biggs.
A representative from Tower Hamlets Metropolitan Police Service said: “Police are aware of these leaflets in circulation and are working with the Electoral Commission.”
Locations targeted included streets near polling stations in the Poplar and Limehouse constituency, which has previously been reported for displaying an Isis flag. The constituency is one of two in Tower Hamlets, both of which remained Labour seats on Thursday.
A spokeswoman from the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Come every election time, a small band of naysayers will try to dissuade people not to vote. On the one hand we have anti-Muslim bigots telling us that Muslims participating in politics is a threat to our democracy, while a band of misguided agitators tell us this is against Islam. Both are wrong.”
“Come every election time the Muslim Council of Britain and scores of mosques and Imams come out in large numbers urging people to vote, for the good of our country, and as a civic duty we as Muslims must fulfil”, she said.
The East London Mosque, which recently held a voter registration event organised by London Citizens and the Cabinet Office said: “The East London Mosque has always assured its congregation that voting in elections is a responsible and Islamically acceptable practice.”
However preachers such as Anjem Choudary disagree. On 22 April, Mr Choudary posted on Twitter that “a Muslim that votes due to ‘opinions’ from secularists is sinful as every Muslim must know Allah is the ONLY legislator”. Attached to the tweet was an image of flyers similar to the ones seen in East London.
According to Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), a non-governmental organisation which seeks to encourage greater participation in politics by the Muslim community, only 50 per cent of Muslims turn out to vote compared with a national average of 67 per cent.
Police are asking anyone with information about the people who distributed the leaflets to contact police via 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111.