Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"God" and electoral malpractice

There has been much controversy in the East London Borough of Tower Hamlets over the recent and hotly contested local elections. The Times reports today that Lutfur Rahman is facing allegations of exerting unlawful "spiritual influence" over voters, forcing them to vote for him or "face punishment in the next world" if they didn't.

This is an almost unheard of electoral malpractice (in this country at least) but such corrupt practises are now defined by the Representation of the People Act 1983 and included:

exerting undue influence on a voter through threats (including threats of "spiritual injury" as well as physical injury, damage or harm), whether to influence their vote or as a result of their voting

Of course this isn't the only allegation that Rahman is facing, there's actually quite a long list submitted from a cross party group of complainants. 

The High Court will no doubt rule on these matters in due course. 

However there is no doubt that the influence of Islam(ism) in Tower Hamlets and beyond is a worrying development. Even today we can see the running scars of religious division in Northern Ireland after years of strife between Catholics and Protestants. 

Do we really want to see the further rise of religious based politics in our cities?

There's been enough damage caused by the self-appointed anti-imperialist left who have encouraged separatism in the Muslim community through the setting up of organisations like George Galloway's misnamed Respect Party.

At the same time radical extremists have bullied their way into the limelight by precisely using threats of spiritual injury and have infiltrated and taken over mosques and schools.

The number of these fanatics now known to be fighting for the death cult known as ISIS runs into the hundreds, and that doesn't include the support and recruiting network still at work inside the Muslim community in this country.

The struggle against such extremism begins at home.

That means fighting for more secularism in society and pushing aside religious intolerance.

"God" and politics is a dangerous mix. There is no reasoning with religious fanatics. 

Just see what is happening in Iraq.

There no doubt that religion played and still plays too much a role in political life in Tower Hamlets. How far this has become "malpractice" is for the courts to decide.

For the benefit of a modern integrated society however, religion should not be pivotal in aligning communities politically.

That is a road to sectarian disaster and must be opposed.

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