High-profile Conservative MPs targeted by group banned by UK students union

MPACUK campaigns against anti-extremism policy Prevent and urged Muslims to vote for Jeremy Corbyn

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson adjusts his tie as he visits Chulmleigh College while campaigning in Devon ahead of the upcoming general election, in Chulmleigh, Britain November 28, 2019. Dan Kitwood Pool via REUTERS
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A controversial UK-based activist group that has faced repeated accusations of anti-Semitism and been banned from British universities is mobilising to “kick out” prospective Conservative politicians it sees as Islamophobic – including current and former party leaders.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK, which is urging people to vote for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, is focusing on 14 seats where it believes Muslim votes could topple high-profile Conservative candidates. The group has boasted of ousting eight Conservative MPs since 2005.

It has targeted voters with a WhatsApp messaging campaign and launched a crowdfunding drive online to supports its “Operation Muslim Vote 2019.”

MPACUK describes the anti-extremism Prevent programme as a state surveillance policy and has sought to make inroads with communities with its campaigning on the issue.

According to a list published in 2017 on the UK’s National Union of Students website MPACUK is on its no-platform, which means it is identified “as holding racist or fascist views”.

On allegations it is anti-Semitic, MPACUK told The National its platform was political but not communal. "Our long history of championing the Palestinian cause and mobilising Muslims to be politically engaged, active citizens have been against of the political interests of the Conservative party, Hindu nationalists and Zionists," it said.

It added that the candidates it had in its sights had a history of supporting “Islamophobic policies” including the Prevent strategy, which targets extremism but critics say infringes upon freedom of expression.

“Having such prejudice of Islam in positions of power and making laws inherently makes Muslims unsafe across the board, both British-born and tourists,” it said.

Among the candidates it is targeting other than the Prime Minister is former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and international development secretary Alok Sharma.

According to one WhatsApp message obtained by Buzzfeed, MPACUK was aiming to oust would-be MPs it regards as “supporting Israeli and/or supporting Modi’s assault on Kashmir”.

Set up in 2001, its website says “our main objective is to pro-actively work to expose and counter the sinister and toxic anti-Muslim narrative that is common in mainstream politics and media”.

But the organisation is highly controversial and was accused of rampant anti-Semitism and promoting holocaust denials in its early years.

Only five other organisations are on the NUS’s no-platform list. These include the far-right British National Party, English Defence League and National Action, and Al Muhajiroun, the extremist group accused of inspiring people to join terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

The National has contacted the NUS to ask if MPACUK remains on the no platform listing.

Among its supporters the organisation can count on are the activist and writer Yvonne Ridley, who has a record of regular appearances on Iran’s Press TV.

“They’re grassroot campaigners, they know where the pressure points are in the Establishment, and they’re not afraid to use it.”

Co-founder Asghar Bukhari, who has since left MPACUK, sent money to Holocaust denier David Irving.

“We target marginal seats where the Muslim vote is larger than the current MP’s majority vote. In these seats, Muslim can make a definitive difference and have the biggest voices during and after elections,” the campaign against the Conservative candidates, which has raised over £4,000 of a £20,000 goal, says.

“We are the only Muslim organisation in Europe that conduct national elections campaign in this manner. Whilst other Muslim organisations focus on more generic and national call-to-actions, we focus specifically on constituencies where Muslims can demonstrate a real difference and pragmatic power.”