A group of British Muslims are seeking to raise funds for candidates they support in next month's general election.
The group called Muslims for Change (MFC) say they want "the voices of British Muslims to be heard and their vision of a strong, stable, open, and prosperous Britain for all to be seen by those who will hold office."
So far nearly £5,000 has been raised, of £30,000 they hope to raise in total. The proceeds will be donated to prospective MPs who are campaigning to address a range of issues including rising anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.
The campaign is lead by Muddassar Ahmed, a self-described "lifelong Londoner" a former government adviser who was in Parliament during the 22 March attack. He was previously part of the Muslim campaign that raised £30,000 for families' of the victims.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, he called the campaign an "experiment" adding that no one else was raising money on the basis of inclusivity and multiculturalism and that it would be a challenge because "people do not generally give donations to politicians".
Growing up I remember two Muslim approaches to elections. Neither were all that helpful. Either Muslims sat out of the vote entirely, equally suspicious of all the parties, or we voted en masse according to the recommendation of senior religious or community leaders.
Lobbying is done by the privileged and the elite and the few behind closed doors, and backroom deals. It conjures up those images.
What we're doing is the complete opposite of that. What we're doing is very transparent, very open, and bringing [together] ordinary people to give money.
Ahmed added that the group is non-partisan and would be lending support to any politician who is aligned with their aims, regardless of parties or their faith.
So far they've pledged support to Stephen Timms, the Labour candidate for East Ham, and Andrew Stephenson, the Tory candidate for Pendle. The group has also spoken with Tom Brake, the Lib Dem candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, who said he supports tackling Islamophobia and stopping attacks on refugees.
We are deliberately not taking a view on Brexit.
What we're doing is we're saying we don't want to see an increase in rhetoric against migrants or against refugees.
We think this needs to be a priority. So we want to back people who will actively go out of their way to [address] these issues.
On their website, they say they are "crowdfunding to donate across party lines to political candidates who stand for an inclusive, generous and fair British democracy, based on their past track record".
They list the following issues:
- Address rising anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. We will direct our resources to aid candidates who have taken bold public stands against Islamophobia and xenophobia.
- Stand up for minority rights, including opposing any attempt to undermine the rights of Muslims and other religious minorities to live their faith freely and lawfully.
- Show a genuine commitment to socio-economic reforms that support positive integration and social mobility for Britain’s most disadvantaged white and ethnic minority communities, among whom Muslims are disproportionately represented.
- Stand up to the misreporting of minorities in the media by supporting the implementation of the relevant Leveson inquiry recommendations. We must recognise discrimination against all minority groups as a breach of standards.
- Support an independent review of Prevent in line with the request of the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson QC. We must ensure that concerns from Muslim communities are incorporated in any approach to extremism.
In constituencies where multiple candidates agreed with Muslims for Change - such as Bethnal Green and Bow, where incumbent Labour MP Rushanara Ali is facing a challenge from independent candidate Imam Ajmal Masroor - the group will not get involved.
We're staying out of places where both candidates obviously and publicly agree with our statements, or are Muslim...
If one agrees and one doesn't, it really doesn't matter what their religion is … it may be the case we back the non-Muslim over the Muslim, it doesn't matter.
Muslims are a significant minority in the UK, making up 4.4% of the UK population but only 2% of MPs in 2015 identify as Muslim.