Nick Clegg and Muslim Professionals
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st July, 2008
Nick Clegg was the guest speaker at a meeting held at Abrar House in central London tonight, organised by the City Circle, a group of predominantly young Muslim professionals, delightfully described by former London Mayoral aspirant candidate Fiyaz Mughal as ‘an open circle for open minds’ — a label Nick threatened to co-opt for the Liberal Democrats, if it is not copyright-protected. Nick gave a short presentation (without notes) about some of his fundamental beliefs and current concerns, with the sort of off-the-cuff sincerity that is fast becoming his trademark. Some of the themes were familiar, such as his justifiable claim that ‘politics is broken and needs to be fixed’. More people didn’t vote than voted Labour in the last two elections. He also articulated well the twin anxieties he has sensed while touring the country over the past six months, doing Town Hall meetings: first, the economic anxiety which is leaving many families worried about their short-term future; and second, an anxiety rooted in a feeling of powerlessness, which is dangerous, because it can lead to anger and apathy — a toxic combination.
More than half the meeting was devoted to a question and answer session, which encouraged Nick to speak up for restorative justice (as practised by community justice councils in LibDem-controlled areas, such as Chard in Somerset), more democratic accountability within a decentralised health service, and his newly enunciated policy of tax cuts for the poor, thereby giving them hope that they can change their lives. I particularly liked the robust answer he gave to an interviewer from Islam Channel TV, who asked on camera whether the LibDems are the party that can appeal to all Muslims. Nick replied, correctly and bravely: no; the party does not seek to co-opt various communities in some sort of sectarian struggle, but rather to appeal to individuals who share common values of fairness, tolerance and mutual respect, which can be religious or secular-based.