LABOUR’s leadership candidates faced complaints this week that the party had failed to “do God” in recent years.
At a debate hosted at the Oasis centre, Waterloo, organised by several faith groups, activists told Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith that the party had been left “flailing behind” as David Cameron courted faith communities. It had avoided talk of moral responsibility, and allowed anti-Semitism to flourish in its ranks.
Those whose religious allegiance was visible were treated like the “unwanted, all-too-visible elephant in the room”, a Muslim human-rights activist, Onjali Q. Raúf, said. This was “hugely ironic”, given the influence of faith on many voters.
A Sikh activist, Kirith Ahluwalia, described Mr Cameron’s “impressive engagement” with the Sikh community, a majority of whom had voted for his party last year. Njoki Mahiaini, of Christians on the Left, said that, while Christianity had “provided the moral basis for our present-day commitments to human rights, inclusion, and poverty alleviation”, she feared that “some of us now see talk of moral responsibility as amoral in itself.”
Rabbi Danny Rich said that the “genuine distress and troubling experiences” of members of the Jewish community “need to be acknowledged by, and seen to be heard at, the highest levels of the Labour party”.
Both candidates went on to pay tribute to the Labour Party’s roots in faith, and the current social action undertaken by faith communities. Mr Smith said that he was cognisant of the “very deep connection in the Welsh Labour tradition between religion, between faith”. Mr Corbyn spoke of the importance of teaching religion in schools, and praised the “core values” of all faiths, which “are about community, are about involvement, are about peace, and are about looking out for and protecting each other”.
Both men acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism within the party, and condemned it. They also both pledged to scrap the Prevent programme, introduced by the last Labour government to tackle radicalisation.
The event was organised by Sikhs for Labour, Good Faith Partnership, Christians on the Left, and Jewish Labour.