Scotland’s Ukip MEP is facing calls to resign after he reportedly compared Muslim SNP minister Humza Yousaf to the convicted terrorist Abu Hamza.
The Scottish Daily Mail quotes David Coburn as referring to Mr Yousaf as “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him, Abu Hamza” during a telephone conversation about the BBC Two show The Big Immigration Debate on Tuesday, which he claimed Mr Yousaf had been due to appear on.
“Humza Yousaf, or as I call him, Abu Hamza, didn’t seem to turn up,” he was reported to have said.
The paper reports that when challenged about the conversation, Mr Coburn insisted that the remark was made during an off the record discussion. The Mail denies there being any prior agreement to speaking off the record before the conversation was held.
Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Government's Minister for Europe and International Development, said he was "angry, appalled and upset" by the "Islamophobic" remarks reported in The Mail.
“Completely unacceptable, @UKIP must expel him”, he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Yousaf condemned the comment as “Islamophobia of the worst kind” and wrote a letter to Nigel Farage calling for Mr Coburn’s suspension while an investigation takes place.
Mr Yousaf said: "I am utterly appalled, disgusted and hurt by the comments allegedly made by David Coburn MEP. This is Islamophobia of the worst kind.
"If this was shouted at a Muslim on the street none of us would tolerate it. The fact this abuse has come from an elected member of the European Parliament is even more shocking and completely unacceptable.
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"Nigel Farage has been plagued by accusations of leading a racist party and this outburst from David Coburn MEP shows that Ukip are not just a party with a few rotten apples but rotten to the core.
"If Nigel Farage is serious about Ukip being a party that will not tolerate xenophobia in any form then I expect David Coburn to be expelled from Ukip immediately and have written to Nigel Farage in that vein."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denounced the alleged remark as "reprehensible" while Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described it as "totally unacceptable". Scottish Labour's deputy leader Kezia Dugdale blasted it as a "disgusting slur".
Scots Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the reported comment was "astonishing" and described Mr Coburn as "an offensive fool".
However, Ukip's Scottish chairman, Arthur Misty Thackeray, denied a comparison had been made between Mr Yousaf and Hamza, insisting his colleague made a "slip of the tongue" and "got a name wrong".
A spokesperson for Ukip said Mr Coburn has written to Mr Yousaf to offer his “sincerest apologies”.
He added: “Mr Coburn’s comments were made in the spirit of jest and he thought it off the record but they were in very bad taste. He has obviously caused offence and he is very sorry to have done so.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content