British Imam: Apathy will win if young people don’t register to vote

THE General Election will set the direction our country takes for generations. But millions of young people, including those from ethnic minorities, will not take part in electing the next government.

Article written by Imam Qari Asim, Imams Online senior editor. Contributors: Shaukat Warraich, Faith Associates.

It is the future of young people – from Brexit to climate change to the NHS. Yet too many young people are still not on the electoral register with the deadline to vote closing tonight. [Register here]

It was reported last week in The Independent that 1 in 3 young people are not on electoral rolls, an alarming figure – To vote in this election, first time voters need to register by 11.59pm on Tuesday, 26th November 2019.

The voting apathy troubles me greatly, in particular when I see young people in the Middle East, Africa and recently in Hong Kong risking their lives and freedoms to exercise their democratic right to vote.

Therefore, since the announcement of the election before Christmas, I have been campaigning to get more and more young people to register to vote. There have been calls and campaigns from Muslims organisations across the UK pushing for young people to register to vote and have their say in arguably the most important election they will ever see.

When I talk to young people about exercising the hard-won democratic right, I often hear them say “my vote will not make any difference”; “the political parties are all as bad as each other”; “I don’t understand what I am voting for”; “the parties are more interested in getting into power than caring about young people” etc. Regrettably, young people do not realise this act of disengagement immediately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Millennials can’t be accused of shirking their civic duty. But why are so many young people disengaged from democratic processes? Is it apathy? A reduction in political activism? Lack of trust in the political system? Or is it something much deeper?

In addition to young people, another group of people less likely to register and vote is ethnic minorities, leaving a considerable political participation gap. The role ethnic minorities can play in this election is huge, especially the Muslim community. It was recently reported that Muslim communities across the UK have the power to swing the election in some seats – but only if they register to vote and turn up to the polling stations on the 12th.

There are around three million Muslims in this country and nearly half of the population is under the age of 27. Muslims are likely to have one of the highest number of first-time voters. Parties should be fighting over those votes: first-time voters are less encumbered by the baggage of existing party allegiance. Their votes are ‘up for grabs’ – Yet I’ve seen little in the manifestos to attract such voters.

Voting habits are formed early in a person’s first two elections. If future generations never adopt the voting habit, turnout will fall further, weakening the legitimacy of elected governments

There is no doubt that the repercussions of this election will be felt for many years so let the result be down to choice – and not the by-product of apathy. Register here today

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