Saturday 7th April saw over 100 local residents pack Havering Islamic Centre to learn more about engaging in local democracy ahead of the May 3rd local elections.
A century on from women in Britain gaining the right to vote after a long struggle, Havering Islamic Centre organised an event to promote engagement in local democracy with a focus on BME and female voters, encouraging them to register and participate in the upcoming council elections.
Umer Sharif, Trustee and event organiser commented “This was a brilliant event. The room was packed with interested local residents from diverse backgrounds, demonstrating their enthusiasm to learn more about local democracy and the role of the local Council. We were proud to host the range of speakers, and hope it encourages our visitors, members and friends to go and vote on May 3rd.”
Esmat Jeraj, a Community organiser with civil society organisation Citizens UK, served as the key note speaker expanding on the importance of engaging in local politics, explaining the local election system, along with myth busting stereotypes around poor turnout amongst Muslim communities and suggestions that Muslims are held back from partaking in local democracy by religious beliefs.
Esmat praised the cross-community work carried out by the centre remarking “From school children to young first time voters to grandparents, the audience reflected the diversity of modern Britain. It was an honour to speak at the centre, learn more about the wonderful local services the Mosque delivers and hear directly from the local community about some of the challenges they face on a daily basis. This is clearly a socially conscious community, that feels a real affinity with their neighbourhood and has a clear vision for how they can contribute to broader society.”
Robert Ritchie, Labour candidate for the Brooklands ward, was the second speaker. Highlighting the importance of each particular vote counting, Robert spoke about the recent Thurrock by-election where the result was a tie, emphasising the importance of every vote.
Andrew Rosindell, long-standing MP for Romford Town Centre, was the final speaker, driving home the importance of working together as a community and what effect the council may have on our daily lives. He said, “Havering is our home, it belongs to each and every one of us”. The council’s role in our lives starts the second we step foot outside our doors, from maintaining the quality of our local roads to ensuring the education system remains strong and positive in the local area.
Whilst not a political husting, a few questions from the floor were taken. Attendees expressed anxieties in relation to the uncertainties faced by the Mosque with it possibly being forced to relocate. Concerned local residents asked Andrew Rosindell what assurances, in his capacity as their local MP, he would give to the Centre with regards to his support. He was met with a resounding round of applause when he affirmed commitment stating the only appropriate place for the Mosque is in Romford Town Centre.
The event concluded with a question on incidents of hate crime, which saw all speakers united in their message stating that all forms of hatred should be condemned, encouraging solidarity and to ensure individual cases were reported to the relevant authorities.
8 year old Imaan, who recently volunteered at the Mosque’s open day selling cakes for 5 hours for charity, closed the event with a presentation of a small token of appreciation to all speakers.
Notes to Editors:
Contact: Umer Sharif (firstname.lastname@example.org)
About Havering Islamic Centre
• Havering Islamic Centre is a non-denominational centre founded in 1982 as a charity catering for the social and cultural needs of Havering residents and the religious needs of local Muslims. www.haveringislamiccentre.org.uk
• A weekly soup kitchen is run from the centre every Wednesday feeding people in need, run by local residents and supported by restaurants across Havering to feed people every week, along with great company.
• The Centre raised £2,500 as part of their National Visit My Mosque event in February for St Francis Hospice.
• The event was a non-partisan public event encouraging voter registration, and was not a husting or event for candidates to campaign.