Ukip's foreign affairs spokesman has resigned after the party launched an “integration agenda” that called for a burqa ban and mandatory health checks on schoolgirls deemed to be at risk of female genital mutilation.
In a statement, James Carver, MEP for the West Midlands, said that “no one has the right to dictate what people should wear”, adding that he strongly objected to the “misguided policy” announced on Monday at a news conference in central London.
He continued: “When facial identification is necessary, such as at passport controls or in a bank, then it is perfectly reasonable to order the removal of veils, as is the practice, but in a free and liberal society, people have a right to their religious beliefs, and to dress as they see fit.
“I feel this policy undermines my desire to represent all communities within the West Midlands, including the many British Muslims, who, I know, from first-hand experience, voted to leave the EU in last year’s referendum.”
The resignation came after prominent party supporter, Arron Banks, criticised the party for going to “war on Muslim religion” and accused the party of heading “entirely in the wrong direction” following the announcements of a string of predominately Islam-focused policies.
The proposals, which also included a moratorium on Islamic faith schools and an explicit ban on sharia councils in Britain, were widely condemned by politicians and faith groups. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader, described as “full-throttled Islamophobia”, an assault on multiculturalism and an attack on Muslims in Britain.
Later on Tuesday, Harun Khan, the Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, is expected to say “it is deeply regrettable that the UK Independence Party is singling out Muslims in the most negative terms” and attack stereotyping around “bombs, beards and burkas”.
“We are actually in this country rather behind the curve on this, because even the biggest party in the EU has called for an EU-wide ban on this,” he will add.
“This is not leadership. And it is certainly not becoming of a party seeking to represent British people.
“Together with fellow Britons, Muslims will be looking for true leadership that unites our country during this time of uncertain transition and seek to represent all British people, and certainly not scapegoat some.
“Bigots must not be allowed to set the terms of the debate. Due to the scourge of terrorism that we all oppose, bigots are obsessed with sharia law, keen to question our loyalty to our country and refuse to accept us Muslims as equal citizens of this nation."
But speaking on BBC’s Radio 4, Peter Whittle, the party’s deputy leader, defended the policies, adding: “The burqa is not something in the Quran, it’s not specified by the Quran, it’s a cultural practice, FGM is a cultural practice.”
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