A few years ago, I was involved in running a very successful Muslim Youth Project in Stafford. We used to initially operate on a Friday evening then moved to Saturday morning to meet demands. But that’s not what this post is about…
I have a very vivid memory of one Friday evening a few years ago.
I was preparing to start work with my group of young people and in the distance I saw one of my friends, an Iraqi lady, almost running towards me – a giant smile on her face whilst shaking her hand at me. It was only as she got closer yelling “Sister Hifsa! Sister Hifsa!” that I realised that she was in fact she was shaking her index finger at me. She finally stopped about six inches from my face practically shouting “Look! Look!” I had to ask her what she was showing me – and she pointed out that the tip of her finger was purple.
The significance of this was lost on me but her excitement and happiness was contagious and we both ended up laughing just because she was. She was overjoyed because she had just returned from an 8 hour round trip to London and back, to vote in the first free elections being held in Iraq.
Recalling her happiness at the ability to go and have her say in the way her country was being governed is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life – and still makes my eyes well up every time I recall this story.
The freedom to elect our political leaders in this country is one of the great things about being in Britain and being British. Whichever party you support, whichever party you hate, whichever party you agree or disagree with, is one of the fundamental freedoms of expression we have as British citizens. Think about the images you’ve all seen on our TV screens from elections across the world; people being forced to vote one way or another by having family members threatened or kidnapped, others queuing for hours to vote and some, votes being forged and others never even having the opportunity.
I have voted in every single local and general election since I turned eighteen 33 years ago. My father drummed it into us that being given the privilege to elect our representatives was not one that should be taken lightly. We had a duty to be part of the system. “I can’t be bothered” was a phrase guaranteed to get us a telling off. He would always say if you can’t be bothered, you have absolutely no right to complain about anything – dirty streets, poor schools, waiting times for GP appointments, lack of job opportunities, bins not being emptied.
Please use your vote wisely today. I would like to say I don’t care who you vote for, so long as you vote. But that would be a blatant lie. I do care. But your vote is your choice – do your research and choose wisely! Do not base your decision on just personal gains, but on the things that would benefit the majority of our society and especially those who are marginalised, the homeless, the unemployed, single parent families, those who are seeking refuge through no fault of their own, the elderly, the sick. Base your decision on who will be better for the country as a whole.
Just make sure you vote!
Those men and women are fortunate who are born at a time when a great struggle for human freedom is in progress. It is an added good fortune to have parents who take a personal part in the great movements of their time. I am glad and thankful that this was my case. (Emmeline Pankhurst)