Ukip leader Nigel Farage today denied he was jumping on a political bandwagon by supporting a primary school dinner lady sacked for accidentally serving pork to a Muslim pupil.
Alison Waldock, 51, has said she forgot the dietary needs of seven-year-old Khadija Darr when she asked if she wanted roast gammon, and the youngster said yes.
The headteacher of Queen Edith Primary School in Cambridge spotted the mistake as the youngster was about to eat her lunch and swept the plate away from her.
But after the girl's parents were told about the mistake, they complained to the school's catering firm and Ms Waldock, a dinner lady for 11 years, was suspended and then dismissed.
Mr Farage told ITV1's Daybreak programme: "It's outrageous, isn't it? We've all made mistakes in our lives and in our jobs, and I can imagine 250 kids coming through chattering, it's noisy, you've got time pressures on you, and mistakes get made.
"The reason that Alison's been sacked is that we're so terrified in this country of causing offence to anybody, particularly the Muslim religion."
And he told Ms Waldock, who was on the same programme: "I wonder had gammon been given to a vegetarian child, whether you would have been sacked, I suspect probably not."
Asked if he was jumping on a political bandwagon, he said: "No, I think it's important, because I think actually what's been happening with this whole politically correct agenda is lots of decent ordinary people are losing their jobs and paying the price for us being terrified of causing offence.
"There was nothing malicious or deliberate in this, and this isn't just Alison, this is happening to scores of people every month up and down the country, she's just got the courage to come and talk about it."
Inayat Bunglawala, founder of campaign group Muslims4UK, told the same programme that the sacking, for a one off mistake, was, on the face of it, an overreaction.
He added: "If mistakes are made, then we'd expect employers to resolve this in a sensible manner.
"I am a bit concerned that a leader of a political party would seek to make capital out of this, because it is a minor issue, it does need resolving, I'm concerned by Nigel saying that people are becoming overly sensitive to Muslim communities, I think that makes it a far more divisive issue than it needs to be."
Mr Farage said: "We want to all live and work together as one happy community in this country, and your attitude towards this, frankly, is very refreshing."
Ms Waldock said she was still considering whether there was anything else she could do to challenge her sacking. "It's something I'll have to think about, because it's my livelihood," she said.Suggest a correction