Ukip has been accused of “full throttled Islamophobia” over its new “integration agenda” that includes a pledge to ban the Muslim face veil.
The agenda also calls for girls at risk of female genital mutilation to undergo annual medical checks and grooming to be made a hate crime if the victim and perpetrator are different races - a reference to the Rotherham grooming scandal that energised the Far Right since it was exposed.
At the event to launch the agenda, which descended into farce as Paul Nuttall tried to flee while avoiding journalists’ questions on whether he would stand in the election, the Ukip leader said: “Integration is not improving in this country.
“In fact people are becoming more divided... We want to see people sign up to British law, sign up to a British way of life and indeed enjoy the full fruits our great society has to offer.”
The party’s deputy leader Peter Whittle called the Muslim face veil “a deliberate barrier to integration - they say ‘don’t speak to me, I will not speak to you’”.
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of The Green Party, called Ukip’s new agenda “full throttled Islamophobia”.
She added: “Now that the referendum has passed, Nuttall’s party is desperately scrabbling around for relevance and seem to have settled upon attacks on Muslims and fringe far-right politics as their new home.”
Lynne Featherstone, former Lib Dem and Home Office minister who campaigned against GFM, said Ukip was trying to “out do” Far Right French National Front leader Marine Le Pen with policies that are “insensitive and frankly outrageous”.
She said: “Ukip’s approach is horrifically heavy-handed and will alienate the very communities we are trying to reach out to.
“We should be training our teachers and other providers such as community experts to identify those at risk and teaching children themselves that FGM is wrong and to come forward if they fear for themselves or a friend.
“In coalition, we put a statutory duty on frontline workers to report concerns of FGM - we need them to have the confidence to do so, and this means better training.
“Research shows that school teachers are still too scared to talk about FGM, honour-based violence and forced marriage, let alone report it.
“This is where we should concentrate our efforts not forcing girls to undergo invasive medical examinations.”
Nimko Ali, an FGM victim who co-founded a charity that campaigns against it, said Ukip’s policy was “not just wrong but offensive as well”.
She shuddered at the thought of her eight-month-old niece being checked for FGM.
She said the solution was to give girls who are at risk more support saying those at risk “will and do talk without pulling down our knickers and checking”.
Ali also noted that Labour’s Diane Abbott - now Shadow Home Secretary - had called for mandatory checks on girls at risk of FGM back in 2014.
Peter Whittle, Ukip’s deputy leader, told Sky News there had never been a prosecution over FGM in the 30 years since it was made illegal.
When asked what would happen if girls at risk of FGM did not want to undergo checks, Whittle struggled to answer.
He said: “You’re talking about a situation now where FGM for example in London is huge as well as around the country.
“The level of, um, medical, um, problems that come later on... are extraordinary.
“You’re going to have to make certain things mandatory to make sure they’re checked.”