LABOUR’S performance at the local elections in England was undeniably a success. The party of Sir Keir Starmer won 186 council seats and now holds a total of 1158, whereas the Tories lost 474, finishing with just 515.

While that result appears to make a Labour victory at the General Election more likely, it was not all celebration for Keir Starmer.

One demographic that has, by and large, historically voted for Labour decisively distanced itself this time: British Muslims. According to one analysis, in 58 council wards where above one in five voters identify as Muslim, “Labour’s share was 21% down on 2021, the last time most seats were contested”.

Muslim activists, influencers and civil society bodies have explained with one voice why they rejected Labour – the party’s dismal record on Gaza and specifically its refusal to support calls for an immediate ceasefire until February.

READ MORE: Edinburgh: Pro-Palestine protesters call for Gaza ceasefire

In response to the felt lack of political representation, and determined to show Labour that the party could no longer take their vote for granted, Muslims across the UK began organising themselves for the local and upcoming general elections.

Amid the furore of weekly Gaza solidarity protests, Muslims stood as councillors, while grassroots groups successfully mobilised Muslim voters. This is, of course, what a healthy democracy should look like, where all groups are equally able to campaign for the issues they care about.

However, there are certain segments of our media class who appear to find the sight of politically energised Muslims alarming and have set out to whip up Islamophobic hysteria in response. Not-so-subtle suggestions of “entryism” – the idea that Muslims are trying to infiltrate and “take over” politics – have filled some of the political-media rhetoric in recent days.

Yet, some of the same people making these divisive arguments will often just as easily accuse Muslims of “segregation” and rejecting “British values” if they do not politically engage. In other words, it appears that Muslims – in the eyes of some – are objects of suspicion either way.

One community-backed campaign group that has been consistently attacked is The Muslim Vote (TMV). This pro-democracy body is a collection of organisations and individuals who have rallied together to ensure that Muslim voices are adequately represented in the build-up to the General Election, slated to take place no later than January 2025.

In February, GB News published a sensationalist smear piece which claimed that TMV “appears to have been worked [on] by the former leader of a now-banned terrorist organisation”.

That reference was to Muhammad Jalal, who was once a senior figure in Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was proscribed earlier this year as a terrorist organisation in a decision that was met with concern by some experts because of the danger it poses to freedom of speech and assembly, considering that the group is non-violent. Mr Jalal has said that he ceased to have any involvement with the group long ago, in 2008.

However, the bigger point is this: TMV is more than just one man and his support hardly says much about the scores of other individuals and organisations involved, which includes decidedly apolitical bodies like the American tech-news website The Verge and the Muslim matchmaking app Muzz. Predictably, though, in the effort to try to demonise TMV, GB News and others conveniently forgot to mention the involvement of those remarkably uncontroversial organisations.

In the wake of the local election results, Labour’s deputy campaign co-ordinator, Ellie Reeves, announced that “[we] know that we’ve got a great deal of work to do to rebuild trust with Muslim communities”.

In response, TMV issued a list of 18 points that Labour would need to address if they want to re-establish credibility with Muslims, including an arms embargo on Israel – a move which provoked a backlash from some sectors of the media.

One columnist for The Observer – who seems barely able to conceal her disdain for religion – wrote that Labour should tell TMV to “go to hell” and warned that the group threatens to open the door to greater religiosity in public.

For the Daily Mail, the list of points “raised fears in some quarters that it is a sign of things to come, with regional votes being determined based on overseas conflicts and foreign policy, rather than local issues”.

READ MORE: Why branding Yessers as 'extremists' threatens Scotland's democracy

Most of the rhetoric recycles a well-worn Islamophobic trope, which frames Muslims as importing “foreign problems” and as caring more about conflicts overseas than fixing domestic challenges. Yet, in recent years, many have pushed back against the stale old adage that politics stops at the water’s edge.

The UK Government’s own definition of British values includes respect for “the rule of law”. Nonetheless, senior officials in both the Labour and Tory parties have openly lent justification to Israel’s mass atrocities in Gaza, despite accusations from UN human rights officials that its forces are engaged in “acts of genocide”.

By giving Benjamin Netanyahu (below) carte blanche to reduce Gaza to a smoking hellscape, British politicians are flouting these bedrock values.

The National: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu chaired a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday (Ohad Zwigenberg/AP)

It is because of this that they have lost the trust of many voters, who rightly expect higher moral standards from their politicians. The British people deserve better, and by voting for Independent candidates and smaller parties, they have simply exercised their right to seek out that better world.

Therefore, it must be understood that a large number of Muslims did not abandon Labour because they have an irrational fixation on Gaza; they have done so because they want to live in a country where it is not the norm for party leaders to validate war crimes in their names, as Keir Starmer effectively did in his notorious October 2023 interview with LBC.

In other words, they want proper democratic representation at home, and they should not be vilified for trying to make that happen.