UKIP is facing an internal rebellion after the party leadership proposed banning the wearing of face veils in public places as part of a series of policies targeted at Muslims.
The party's foreign affairs spokesperson resigned his position on Tuesday in protest at the announcement, while other leading party figures said they oppose the policy on grounds of religious freedom.
James Carver, an MEP for the West Midlands, said he could no longer represent the party on foreign affairs after learning of the policy. Carver who has been a member of the party for two decades, said politicians should not be regulating clothing.
"I would be one of the first to condemn a ban on wearing a crucifix as an infringement of liberty," he said. "No one has the right to dictate what people should wear."
Carver, who recently spoke to BuzzFeed News about his passionate support for Somalialand, added: "When facial identification is necessary, such as at passport controls, or in a bank, then it is perfectly reasonable to order the removal of veils, as is the practice, but in a free and liberal society, people have a right to their religious beliefs, and to dress as they see fit."
Other policies announced on Monday as part of the party's integration agenda included mandatory medical checks on girls from certain minority backgrounds for signs of female genital mutilation, an explicit ban on Sharia law, and a ban on new Islamic faith schools.
David Coburn, another of the party's MEPs and its Scottish leader, also said he strongly opposed banning certain items of clothing.
The view was banked by Arron Banks, a major UKIP donor who left to form his own political movement before flirting with a return to the party.
UKIP has struggled to reinvent itself following the EU referendum result and the loss of former leader Nigel Farage. Monday's announcement reflected an attempt to run a general election campaign around the core issue of immigration and integration but it has come up against resistance from the libertarian faction within the party.
At a dinner this evening, Harun Khan, the Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, is expected to say that it is “deeply regrettable that the UK Independence Party is singling out Muslims in the most negative terms” and attack stereotyping around “bombs, beards and burkas”.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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