MPACUK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK) started out as a small group of activists and Alhamdulillah we proved through numerous successful campaigns that the power of politics can be harnessed by Muslims to defend our rights and stand up for justice. Our campaigns led to Islamophobic journalists being fired, pro-Israel and anti-Muslim MPs getting voted out, national media outlets issuing apologies and corrections, and confident unapologetic Muslim voices being heard in the mainstream media.
Our early work as a campaigning organisation – trying to mobilise a passive and unorganised community – led naturally to our current focus on awakening and activating the wider Muslim community, in order to reach a point where we will have mass political action on a scale capable of tackling the enormous problems facing the Muslims Inshallah.
MPACUK Media Successes
Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK) started as a grass-roots response to the biased media coverage of the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada. It began when an ordinary young Muslim saw the TV news describe unarmed Palestinian demonstrators as ‘militants’, and decided to actually pick up the phone and complain to the TV channel. The woman on the other end of the phone said “well, nobody else has complained”. So he got his friends to all call in as well and by the next news bulletin the word ‘militant’ had been dropped.
Alhamdulillah this was the first of many successes. Media monitoring and Action Alerts sent out by email managed to get Islamophobes sacked, apologies issued and corrections published. This was all accomplished by a handful of volunteers, working together via an e-group.
Robert Kilroy-Silk, the BBC daytime chat show host, wrote an article in the Sunday Express titled “We owe the Arabs nothing” calling Arabs, “suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors” and a whole lot more. This was not the first time… back in 1995 he wrote, “Muslims everywhere behave with equal savagery”.
But this time Muslims had had enough; Not only did we issue Action Alerts on the website and newsletter, MPACUK activists even went door-to-door mobilising Muslims to respond. Our campaigns team also organised to bombard the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) with emails and calls demanding they take action. Finally, after a meeting with MPACUK members, the CRE issued a statement condemning Kilroy’s remarks and adding to the pressure on the BBC. After weeks of relentless campaigning, and at least 1000 complaints sent in to the BBC, Kilroy was forced off our televisions. The time when Islamophobes could whip up hate with absolute impunity was at an end.
The MPACUK campaigns team had a similar challenge when a writer named Will Cummins wrote an article titled ‘Muslims are a threat to our way of life’ claiming that ‘all Muslims like all dogs, share certain characteristics.’ This article was just one of his series of four Islamophobic articles on “the black heart of Islam”, published in Britain’s biggest selling broadsheet newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph.
MPACUK issued Action Alerts and got letters published in the Sunday Telegraph… and the campaign really took off once Cummins was exposed as a British Council employee – a public body that is meant to promote cultural understanding! MPACUK used press releases, online coverage and Action Alerts to lobby the British Council to abide by its own policies and dismiss Cummins. The final step in the successful campaign was phoning the British Council, which works extensively in the Middle East, to let them know we were planning to expose them via Al Jazeera and other Arabic satellite channels. After a 2 month long campaign Cummins was finally sacked for his Islamophobic rants!
MPACUK Press Office Successes
Not content with complaining about biased media portrayals we were determined to make our own voices heard as Muslims. MPACUK established a press office, sending out press releases every time a story broke that concerned Muslims and Islam. Our volunteers would call up news desks at all the major media outlets and we began to become an organisation that journalists would come to when they wanted comments and opinions.
MPACUK spokespeople have appeared in many sections of the press and broadcast media, including the BBC, ITV, Ch4, Sky News, CNN, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sunday Times… When Jack Straw’s remarks stirred up a media storm against the niqab, MPACUK put forward more spokeswomen than any other Muslim group, touring the TV studios and showing that Muslim women can speak for themselves. From the tragic events of 7/7 to media hysteria on Shariah law we make every effort to replace the prejudiced opinions of outside ‘experts’ with the views and voices of ordinary Muslims.
MPACUK Political Successes
Media is not the only arena in which MPACUK have proved that active Muslims can make a difference. One of our most powerful tools is strategic voting.
In the wake of the Iraq war MPACUK mobilised Muslim voters in the Brent East by-election to help elect an anti-war MP, defeating the pro-war candidate. MPACUK volunteers delivered thousands of leaflets to Muslim homes and handed them out outside mosques. Sarah Teather, the anti-war candidate, was elected by a narrow margin after our campaign helped overturn a 10,000 vote majority. She went on to campaign in parliament for the rights of British residents in Guantanamo.
In 2005 MPACUK became the first Muslim group to help unseat a sitting MP, defeating a leading member of Labour Friends of Israel -Lorna Fitzsimmons the MP for Rochdale. (This ground-breaking campaign was shown in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Operation Muslim Vote’). The Rochdale constituency became an example of the power of Muslim ‘swing voters’ who show they are prepared to switch their votes to whichever candidate best represents them on issues such as Palestine – in the 2010 election both the Lib Dem and Labour candidates were competing to demonstrate that they would be the most pro-Palestinian MP.
In 2010 MPACUK campaigns across the country succeeded in removing 4 MPs targeted because of their Zionist, Islamophobic and pro-war records (Andrew Dismore in Hendon, Terry Rooney in Bradford, Phil Woolas in Oldham and Claire Ward in Watford). As well as door to door canvassing, leafleting mosques, online campaigning and some telephone canvassing MPACUK helped organise hustings where we made sure the candidates had to answer tough questions on their policies
Even in election campaigns where the result wasn’t the outcome that MPACUK was pushing for we have nevertheless still shown the impact of mobilising the Muslim vote. For instance Jack Straw MP demonstrated how seriously he took the threat of being voted out due to our campaign in 2005 when he spoke about Muslim voters in his election night interview live on the BBC. Also during the 2008 London Mayoral elections Boris Johnson’s team were put on the back foot and forced to try to defend his record on Muslim issues, producing a special leaflet distributed outside mosques that portrayed him as sympathetic to Muslims. Muslim voters could no longer be taken for granted and ignored.
Other MPACUK Successes
MPACUK’s campaigns have shown again and again that when Muslims get politically active they can make a real impact in a wide variety of arenas. For instance British shoppers buy over £2 billion of Israeli goods annually. It is a shocking fact that many Muslims during Ramadan are breaking their fast with Israeli dates – and therefore helping to fund the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians! MPACUK’s pioneering campaign -distributing thousands of leaflets, informing Muslim shopkeepers and raising awareness through events, media and mosque announcements – has begun to put an end to this. But the biggest success is that this campaign has gone viral, being taken up by many different organisations and individuals who together will achieve its goals insh’Allah.
And these are just a few examples of our campaign successes – you can find many more here in this document (hosted on scribd.com).
Alhamdulillah these successes were achieved by a tiny group of volunteers with no professional training who gave their evenings and weekends to run these campaigns. Just imagine the type of positive outcomes empowered British Muslims could help achieve if we mobilised to take mass political action…
MPACUK are now increasing our impact across social media exponentially and using all the avenues available to us to reach out and awaken our community to their role in reclaiming their true Islamic identity and standing up to the urgent threats facing Muslims today.