Low vote disappoints Muslims hoping to make inroads in Britain. BRADFORD BY-ELECTION
WHILE the political future of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her 11-year government was being argued about by national politicians and the news media, 7,000 voters in the parliamentary seat of Bradford North in the heart of England had to confront a different kind of issue. Would they, as British Muslims, vote for their own separate religious party in a key by-election, or throw their support behind the Labour Party candidate?
The outcome - only 800 Muslims voted on Thursday for the candidate of the Islamic Party - has eased the minds of many in Britain who worried that political movements based on race or religion were about to enjoy a surge of support in Britain's increasingly multicultural society.
The result has also prompted some soul-searching among British Muslims convinced that the traditional political parties neither promote their interests nor fully understand them.
Conceding that in the Bradford by-election local economic and social issues had prevailed over ethnic and religious ones, the Islamic Party's candidate was philosophical. ``Muslims have a much better chance in city politics,'' said Daud Musa Pidcock, a white who converted to Islam 15 years ago. ``We shall have to work very hard in future to make an impact at national level.'' He described gaining less than 1,000 of the 28,000 votes cast as ``a disappointment.''
Mr. Pidcock campaigned on a platform calling for a world economic system based on interest-free credit. He also called for a locally issued currency and ``Islamic morality.''
Bradford was best hope
Of all the cities in Britain, Bradford seemed to offer the London-based Islamic Party, formed a year ago, the best hope of making a political impact. In Bradford North, Muslims account for more than 1 in 10 of registered voters.
Most of the city's Muslims come from Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has a high unemployment rate, and housing conditions for Asian immigrant families are poor. Unemployment levels among Asians also are high.