'Inclusive' UKIP invites Muslim cleric to Wolverhampton conference
UKIP's inaugural West Midlands party conference will feature a speech by a Muslim cleric as the party bids to show its 'inclusive side'.
Aqeel Ahmad, an imam at the Baitul Ghafoor Mosque, in Halesowen, will talk on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association – AMA – at the event in Wolverhampton later this month.
The day will also feature UKIP party leader Nigel Farage, who is set to lay out the case for Britain leaving the EU at a Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group meeting following the conference.
The party's national disability spokesperson Councillor Star Anderton and Nathan Garrbutt of LGBT UKIP will also deliver presentations.
West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge said the range of speakers was 'one in the eye' for anyone accusing the party of bigotry.
"We are looking closely at what UKIP should stand for and inclusiveness is certainly something that we want to push," added Mr Etheridge, who is also set to deliver a conference speech.
"As a party we want to highlight the proud traditions of our region and show that there is no place for bigotry and intolerance under our banner.
"UKIP has an inclusive side that a lot of people probably don't recognise."
UKIP has courted controversy among the Muslim community on numerous occasions in the past.
In a speech in the wake of last year's Paris terror attacks Mr Farage said that some British Muslims were 'conflicted in their loyalties' between the UK way of life and messages from some elements within their faith.
He said there was 'a problem with some of the Muslim community in this country' and that research suggested that British Muslims experienced a 'tremendous conflict'.
And in 2014 London MEP Gerard Batten sparked uproar when he proposed a ban on new mosques being built in Europe and called for a new 'charter of Muslim understanding' to reject sections of the Qur'an.
Wasim Shah, outreach coordinator for the West Birmingham Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said the group would use the conference to promote the 'true teaching' of Islam as part of its campaign against extremism. "We see a love of this country as part of the Islamic faith," he said.
The UKIP conference runs at Dunstall Park racecourse on February 20. Tickets are available to party members www.ticketsource.co.uk/ukipwestmidlands
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