First-time Muslim candidates make up most diverse parliament in history

Labour’s Sadik Al-Hassan took the Tory stronghold of North Somerset in a historic first, while a number of independents won on a pro-Palestine platform

Photo courtesy of Abtisam Mohamed/Sadik Al-Hassan/Zubir Ahmed
The UK’s new parliament is set to be the most ethnically diverse in history. Photographs courtesy of Abtisam Mohamed/Sadik Al-Hassan/Zubir Ahmed

A record number of first-time Muslim candidates have won parliamentary seats in a day of historic firsts for Labour and independents in the UK general election. 

The new Labour MPs include Sadik Al-Hassan in North Somerset, Abtisam Mohamed in Sheffield Central and Scottish Labour’s Zubir Ahmed in Glasgow South West. 

Several Muslim pro-Palestine candidates took over former Labour strongholds, with Shockat Adam in Leicester South, Iqbal Mohamed in Dewsbury and Batley, Adnan Hussain in Blackburn and Ayoub Khan in Birmingham Perry Barr all winning their seats as independents. 

The new parliament is set to be the most diverse in history, with 89 MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds having been elected, according to British Future. 

Sadik Al-Hassan, a pharmacist, defeated the Conservative party’s Liam Fox in North Somerset, in a momentous win that ended Fox’s tenure of 32 years. With 19,138 votes, Al-Hassan became the first Labour MP for the area. 

In his victory speech, Al-Hassan acknowledged the challenge of facing a Tory stronghold, but said: “North Somerset has voted for change, North Somerset has voted with hope for a better future.” 

The new MP pledged to improve access to public services, with his focus on rebuilding the area’s NHS and social care system.

Al-Hassan told the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service before the election: “I have talked to people who work in the NHS who have waited over 89 weeks for an appointment.

“The reason I got into politics was to help make those kinds of situations right. It’s the same as being a pharmacist; all I want to do is help the community and help improve people’s lives.”

Further north, Labour’s Abtisam Mohamed won the safe seat of Sheffield Central with 52.1%. The former city councillor was standing for the first time in a seat that had been held by Labour’s Paul Blomfield since 2010, before he retired earlier this year. Mohamed secured 16,569 votes while the Green party’s Angela Argenzio, endorsed by The Muslim Vote, won 8,283 votes. The Tory candidate, Lucy Stephenson, came in third with 3,339 votes. 

The daughter of a Yemeni steelworker, Mohamed came to the UK as a young child in the 1980s and is now the UK’s first Yemeni MP. Taking the stage after the results were announced, she expressed her disbelief and acknowledged “the journey of many struggles” in her life. 

Mohamed also spoke to those in her constituency who felt their voices had not been heard on the issues in the Middle East and Gaza. 

“To those people, let me reassure you that I hear you loud and clear,” she said. “I will use my voice to advocate for peace, co-existence in the region, for an immediate ceasefire, for the release of hostages on both sides, for the recognition of Palestine and for all lives to be treated equally.” 

Exclusive polling by Savanta for Hyphen ahead of the election had found that 44% of Muslim voters ranked the conflict as one of the five most important issues of the election, while 12% of the general population put Israel-Palestine in their top five concerns. 

Zubir Ahmed, another first-time Muslim candidate, won the Labour seat in Glasgow South West. With a collapse in support for the Scottish National Party, Ahmed beat the SNP’s Chris Stephens, winning just over 43% of the vote share with 15,552 votes. Stephens came in second place, securing 12,267 votes. 

After his victory was announced, Ahmed said: “Friends, the message from tonight’s results is clear. The people demand change. They expect a government that will heal our divided country.

“Glasgow South West, I will take your voices, your experiences and your aspirations to the heart of the Labour government led by Prime Minister Keir Starmer. 

“You deserve nothing less. But to fully free ourselves from division, from stagnation, from self-serving government here in Glasgow and Scotland, we know this is just the beginning.”

A transplant surgeon, Ahmed has seen the realities of the healthcare system first-hand and made addressing the state of the NHS one of his main campaign pledges. 

Muslim voters and support for Gaza were credited for a record five independent candidates beating Labour. Four of those were Muslims running for the first time, including Iqbal Mohamed, who split from Labour over the party’s stance on the conflict. The strength of pro-Palestine campaigns was clear in many constituencies, including Ilford North, where British-Palestinian Leanne Mohamad narrowly lost to Labour’s Wes Streeting — who has held the seat since 2015 — by 528 seats. 

The 23-year-old secured 15,119 votes — a 32.2% share — while Streeting, the shadow health secretary, won the seat with 15,647 votes, or 33.4% of the vote share. 

While Mohamad is yet to speak publicly on her defeat, The Muslim Vote, which endorsed her as the candidate for Ilford North, applauded her campaign. 

“You unified our community and showed us what we are capable of,” a spokesperson said. “You took on a seasoned politician with the weight of the Labour party machine behind him to a razor-thin margin; all with no time to prepare. 

“You are the community’s real winner. You Put Gaza back on the ballot. You’ve created history and given us incredible hope for the future.

“You have shown our youth what is possible in politics with determination, character and faith.”

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