We asked members of the Conservative Muslim Forum to write 1,200 words or fewer about why they are a Conservative. They are shared here, in particular because they may suggest points you can make to potential Conservative voters.

11 JAN 2016

Basit Mahmood

Basit Mahmood is Chairman of Conservative Future Luton. He tweets as @BasitMahmood91

‘You’re a Tory?!’ On occasion, people froth at the mouth when they hear you’re a conservative, but not only are they aghast at the idea of anyone being a conservative at all, but are even more shocked and subject someone like myself to an even higher standard of justification. How can a young Muslim from a BME background, who grew up in a working class family and lives in a Labour heartland, possibly be a Tory? As though I had just betrayed my entire upbringing and ought to be grateful to those who assume a moral righteousness over issues that they believe come to define me as a person, issues that they somehow have an inherent monopoly over.

However rather than defining why I am a Conservative in response to the claims made by those on the left, I would rather answer this question in light of what conservatives stand for. My answer to this question first and foremost is simple. I am a Conservative because of my passion for social mobility. The belief that no matter where you are born or whatever your background, you can fulfil your potential and that only your endeavour and talent should determine how far you get in life. It may well be a cliché but my belief in equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of outcome is the fundamental reason I became a conservative. In the words of Churchill ‘we're for the ladder, let all do their best to climb.’

Of course all parties are keen to tackle the lack of social mobility in the UK, with the OECD claiming that Britain has the ‘worst social mobility in the developed world’, yet beliefs are meaningless without proper action. For me it has been the Conservative Party, both historically and in the present, which has championed social mobility and sought to address the underlying causes that inhibit individuals from fulfilling their potential. Those on left may have their heart in the right place, but viewing the issue through a top down approach and simply slapping on arbitrary targets and quotas such as ‘50% of all school leavers should go to university’ and boxing individuals into categories, not only does nothing to solve the underlying problem but such measures are counter productive. The answer lies in radically transforming failing schools, empowering local teachers, supporting apprenticeships, rewarding hard work and cutting taxes for the lowest earners as opposed to establishing a system that incentivises a life on benefits. The establishment of the pupil premium in the coalition government is further evidence of Conservatives leading the assault on a culture of low expectations. These are just some of the policies aimed at ensuring that people from the bottom can rise to the top, and all have one principle at their heart, the idea of meritocracy. Yet as Conservatives we also appreciate that spending money on such issues is not just an end in itself.

When David Cameron placed social mobility at the heart of his conference speech in 2015, those on the left had no real reply apart from the mere ‘that wasn’t a very conservative speech’. Yet it was a very Conservative speech, placing meritocracy at it’s heart, following in the footsteps of Benjamin Disraeli, who revolutionised workers rights and Margaret Thatcher, who made home ownership a reality for many. For far too long we have allowed the left a monopoly over issues of social mobility, and for that conservative have only themselves to blame, however David Cameron parked a tank firmly on the Labour Party’s lawn, and reclaimed equal opportunity as Conservative ideas once more.

‘You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname’. Simple yet powerful words, that struck a chord with some of my friends from BME backgrounds. From personal experience I recall friends questioning whether job applications had been rejected due to their background. There was a sense of double standards and resignation. The Conservative Party recognises the lack of equal opportunity faced by those from all walks of life and seeks to tackle such issues at the very root of the problem.

I am also a Conservative due to my sense of patriotism. It is most unfortunate that some have associated pride in one’s nation with the far right, with those on the left almost allergic to their own country. For too long politicians on the left have felt uncomfortable with the idea of patriotism, associating it with imperialism. No doubt there are periods of our history that we shouldn’t be proud of, yet for how long will we subject ourselves to a higher standard than other nations, for no nation on earth can claim a perfect record, and for how long will we allow ourselves to be judged by the actions of forefathers hundreds of years ago?

A sense of identity and pride in one’s country can be a force for immense good. It is the idea that we have obligations to the people around us and to those who will come after us. In setting out his ideas on a ‘non-military national service’, Cameron stressed that it would enable young people from all walks of life to mix together and give them a sense of ‘belonging’. For me, inculcating a sense of belonging is crucial for it ensures that all feel they have an equal stake in the nation’s wellbeing. Growing up in Luton, I have seen all too well the ill effects of young people feeling alienated from the society in which they belong, which at worst, has led to problems with radicalisation and extremism.

When asked to write a piece of this nature, on ‘why I am a Conservative’ it also boils down to a very personal choice. Growing up in a traditional Muslim household, the importance of strong family values, hard work and personal responsibility were stressed from the outset. For me Conservatism has always placed an emphasis on these values, further making my decision to join the party a very natural one.

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Basit you are doing a great job trying to establish this Forum. More of our community needs to be educated on how the party actually represents Muslim and you are the man for that job.
- Sadiqul

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