Facing an electoral wipe-out, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall’s desperate scramble for relevancy has seen him resort to a platform which includes banning face veils worn by some Muslim women, declare a moratorium on new Islamic schools, and the annual mandatory genital examination of girls deemed “from groups at high risk” of suffering female genital mutilation (FGM).
Nuttall’s discriminatory policies, announced 24 April, have prompted a backlash from both the press and influential figures within the party.
Jim Carver MEP, who joined the party over two decades ago, resigned from his position as Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spokesperson in protest, writing in a statement that he “strongly disagrees” with the “misguided policy” of banning the burka.
“No-one has the right to dictate what people should wear”, wrote Carver, before stating that the ban “undermined my desire to represent all communities”.
David Coburn MEP, UKIP’s controversial Scottish spokesperson, has also voiced opposition to the burka ban, writing: “I do not condone the Burqha I simply do not wish to ban the Burqha”, later adding: “In a fair and democratic society everyone can wear whatever articles of clothing or of Faith they wish.”
I do not condone the Burqha I simply do not wish to ban the Burqha
— David Coburn MEP (@DavidCoburnUKip) April 24, 2017
Divisive former UKIP donor and Leave.EU head Arron Banks also condemned the policy, accusing UKIP of waging “war on [the] Muslim religion”, which he considers “going in entirely the wrong direction”. Banks was recently in talks with UKIP about contesting the Clacton seat for the party, but withdrew his candidacy on Monday.
Not sure campaigning with the national party going in entirely the wrong direction is smart. I don’t approve of the war on Muslim religion https://t.co/BcKQtka2yW
— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) April 25, 2017
Banks’ sidekick, Leave.EU spin doctor Andy Wigmore, also waded in to criticise the ban: “Bad timing – this election not about banning the fucking burkha know [sic] one gives a toss even in north of England issue much more complicated.”
@GrahamHmoore Bad timing – this election not about banning the fucking burkha know one gives a toss even in north of England issue much more complicated
— Andy Wigmore (@andywigmore) April 22, 2017
Unsurprisingly, despite such internal disapproval, UKIP’s anti-Muslim policies received a favourable reception from prominent far-right and anti-Muslim figures within the party’s support base.
Nuttall’s policies received support from prominent British ‘counter-jihad’ figures such as Anne Marie Waters – a UKIP county council candidate with links to the extreme far right – who took to Twitter to release multiple tweets supporting UKIP’s policy of mandatory genital FGM examinations for selected children.
Leftists and “secularists” have again confirmed.. they would rather religion- based suffering occur, than risk agreeing with a UKIP policy.
— Anne Marie Waters (@AMDWaters) April 25, 2017
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), former leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), welcomed UKIP’s FGM stance, simply tweeting: “Finally.” Lennon released a video the evening of the launch in which he voiced support for UKIP’s new anti-Muslim platform.
— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) April 24, 2017
If UKIP continues pushing into this radical anti-Muslim territory, it could risk splitting the ailing party, and empowering some of the most worrying elements in its support base.
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