19/02/2018 21:43 GMT

New Leader Of UK Far-Right Party Spouts Islamophobic Rhetoric

Gerard Batten defended his belief that Islam “glorifies death.”

Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images
Gerard Batten was chosen as interim leader of the U.K. Independence Party on Saturday.

The new interim leader of a far-right nationalist party in the U.K. stands by his use of hateful rhetoric to describe Islam and British Muslims.

Gerard Batten, who assumed leadership of the U.K. Independence Party on Saturday, reiterated his belief that Islam is a “death cult” in an interview with Sky News.

Batten initially invoked the phrase in a blog he wrote after a terrorist attack near London’s Palace of Westminster in March 2017.  

“It glorifies death,” Batten said in the Sky News interview about the religion followed by 1.8 billion people in the world

Asked by Sky News anchor Niall Paterson to clarify whether he believes all 3 million British Muslims are adherents of a death cult, Batten said it’s “not all of them” but a “significant minority.”

Batten also defended the idea of having all British Muslims sign a charter renouncing violent passages from the Quran and rejecting “dark-age ideologies” that he believes many Muslims “bring with them” when they come to the U.K.  

In response, Paterson said, “There’s some fairly heinous stuff in the Old Testament ... Leviticus is filled with things that frankly would lead to Christians being forced to sign a charter of understanding by your logic.”

Batten is one of the founders of UKIP and is a member of the European Parliament. He became interim leader of Ukip after his predecessor, Henry Bolton, was ousted from the post on Saturday. Bolton was removed amid controversy over racist comments his girlfriend made about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancée.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of the anti-racism campaign Hope not Hate, said that the choice of Batten to lead UKIP was a “death knell” for the party. 

“The party is now a bad joke, haemorrhaging support and money,” Lowles wrote in an op-ed for The Independent. ”[Batten’s] election is a disaster for any hope UKIP might have of resurrecting its political fortunes.” 

British Muslims are facing increased levels of Islamophobia. Anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents in the U.K. spiked drastically last year, following terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. In addition, hate crimes targeting U.K. mosques ― including acts of vandalism and bomb threats ― more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.