Emancipating the Muslim Mind

Fahad Ansari challenges the institutional mindset amongst UK Muslims regarding the electoral process, in this timely piece.


“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”

Steve Biko

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.

Marcus Garvey

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

Audre Lorde


Today is polling day.

It is the culmination of months of mass hysteria within elements of Britain’s Muslim communities who are seeking to make their mark on the political landscape of the United Kingdom through the ballot box.

Initiatives like The Muslim Vote have brought together a disparate group of activists, disruptors, and democrats who are collectively seeking to galvanise Muslim anger into block voting to unseat Labour and Tory MPs who have failed to oppose Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Irrespective of what the polls show, there is a growing sense of excitement and anticipation that heads will roll with the new government realising that it cannot take the votes of British Muslims for granted and that this will eventually result in a shift away from British support for Israel in favour of the Palestinians.

Maybe not in this election, but in 2029. But perhaps not then.

But definitely by 2034.

It could happen.


The reality is that the 2-party system has been engineered to ensure that the policies of the establishment continue regardless of which party wins the popularity contest in order to collect our taxes. Much has already been written about the naivety with which Muslim communities have approached parliamentary politics and the ability to bring about change which I will not regurgitate here.

I would rather address the lack of imagination, ambition and courage that results in an assessment that voting in a general election is the greatest form of activism to effect change to the extent that it becomes a religious obligation and refraining from it is potentially sinful. Much of this analysis rests on the “lesser of two evils” principle that dictates one’s options are limited to two unsavoury choices; it is preferable to die by lethal injection rather than be killed by the electric chair. Such a narrow mindset fails to appreciate that one does not even need to lose their life. It is also deeply troubling that the aspirations of a people who were sent the greatest example of political and military leadership to guide them to lead the entire world have resigned themselves to opting for evil, albeit arguably of a lesser type.

If community leaders were to instead strive to emulate the visionary radicalism of the best of creation, endless alternative means of bringing about real change would automatically follow. But to achieve this requires not just disrupting the parliamentary process but disengaging from Westminster politics with the certainty that a deliberately corrupt system will only generate further corruption.

While it is true that a handful of independents being elected will punish politicians who have supported genocide, it will never alter the establishment’s support for Israel. If anyone believes otherwise, they are deluding themselves and others. As was the case with ending apartheid in South Africa, with the solidarity movement in Britain and around the world through their interventions outside of parliamentary politics. It had reached a point whereby being seen to sponsor the apartheid regime became an untenable position, and it was only then that the establishment followed kicking and screaming all the way.

Similarly, the primary cause for the current mobilisation for Palestine from all corners of the world that has brought Palestine back on to the agenda has not come about because of parliamentary politics but from radical political activism outside of the system. Real change will not come through voting or pursuing legal challenges which are rendered otiose by a lack of political will to implement judicial orders against Israel.

What has had a significant impact in terms of disrupting the Israeli war machine has been the student encampments and direct action by Palestine Action against Israel’s largest arms firm, Elbit Systems. Until the high profile attacks on the factories by Palestine Action, this key element of the Israeli genocide machine was largely unknown, happily slaughtering Palestinians in silence from British territory. Not only have Palestine Action’s efforts resulted in the shutting down of a number of Elbit Systems factories, but other companies that facilitate Elbit’s operations, that have become secondary targets of the action, have also cut ties with Elbit. These include its property managers, its sole recruiter iO Associates, its website host Naked Creativity, and one of the world’s biggest shipping companies, Kuehne+Nagel. Working in tandem with the BDS Movement, global corporates are feeling the pinch of those moved to resist Israeli genocide and oppression. A few weeks ago, Barclays suspended sponsorship of all Live Nation festivals for 2024 – including Download, Latitude and the Isle of Wight – after protests from bands and fans over the bank providing financial services to defence companies supplying Israel, a fact that came to notoriety as a result of Palestine Action’s work. Decades of parliamentary lobbying and participation has not achieved what a few dozen committed and courageous activists have in the space of a few years.

But why not do both? If parliament is just another platform to mobilise for Palestine, why remove it as an option? Surely we should be utilising every means at our disposal? The difficulty with this approach is that it is based on the incorrect assumption that all means carry similar weight in terms of effectiveness and empowerment and that community leaders will equally endorse each option. The reality is that decades of experience shows that the community leadership will always gravitate towards the path of least resistance (pun intended). This is exemplified by the time, resources, energy and efforts invested in the General Election despite the minimal chances of it bringing about any change. Compare that with the absence of any comment at all on direct action, the method that involves the greatest risk.

If voting in a corrupt system engineered to pursue the establishment agenda is wajib, as has been suggested, what is the ruling on participating in direct action against the very weapons factories and their enablers that are responsible for mass bloodshed in Palestine? That no ruling has even been given speaks volumes. If a few dozen activists can bring Elbit to their knees through their willingness to be jailed for following their collective conscience, can you imagine the impact if a fraction of the time being spent on the General Election was dedicated to mobilising Britain’s 4 million Muslims towards direct action? It is always worth reflecting on why the establishment encourages voting but seeks to criminalise and stigmatise all other forms of dissent such as protest, direct action, encampments and BDS.

We claim to be inspired by the spirit and resilience of the people of Gaza. They too had the choice to opt for the lesser of two evils and accept the humiliation and relative safety of the Israeli blockade and occupation en route to a two-state solution. However, honourable people do not settle for degradation and they were able to liberate their minds and work towards a course of action that would involve the greatest degree of risk, sacrifice and harm to them and their people, but one that critically would magnify the Palestinian cause to an unprecedented level. They understand that emancipation from mental slavery is a prerequisite to a successful liberation struggle. If we anchor ourselves with the ‘lesser of two evils’ approach and working within an oppressive system, we will never be able to envision a post-Israel world.

Fahad Ansari is a lawyer and activist specialising on issues of immigration, citizenship and national security.  You can follow him on X / Twitter @fahadansari and Instagram @instansari.  Listen to him discuss this topic with Dr. Asim Qureishi, Dr. Khadijah El-Shayaal and Arzu Merali here.

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