A Ukip politician has announced plans to visit a city mosque at the centre of a row surrounding parents’ decision to stop their children attending on a school trip.
Jonathan Stanley, a candidate in the upcoming Liberton/Gilmerton council by-election, is to attend the mosque and meet with Muslim leaders later this afternoon.
The visit comes after dozens of children from Newtongrange Primary were withdrawn from a visit to the Central Mosque in Potterrow due to parents’ fears over safety following the terrorist murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich. From an original group of 90 pupils, 28 were withdrawn.
Mr Stanley said: “I am in no way condemning these parents but I do not agree with this decision and so I want to go and reassure the Muslim community.
“Ukip is not a racist party and has a clear vision that someone’s religion is their own matter. We want to be clear as a party that we do not back any of the garbage uttered on the subject.
“For anyone to say schoolchildren visiting a mosque is anything to do with political correctness is just nonsense.”
However the move has been dismissed as “political posturing” by some councillors.
Newtongrange councillor Jim Muirhead said: “The ward Mr Stanley is standing in is nowhere near the mosque and it is even further away from Newtongrange. To me this is political posturing and taking advantage of the situation.”
This view was largely echoed by SNP group leader and city council deputy leader, Steve Cardownie, who said: “I think it’s a positive step to reassure people but this does stink of political opportunism.
“Ukip’s perceived policy towards Muslims and immigrants has been well documented and they will need to go a lot further than this.”
Following the report in yesterday’s News, debate has raged about the decision of parents to not allow their children to take part in the trip which had been organised to help educate the primary one, two and five pupils about other religions and cultures.
Foysol Choudhury, chairman of the Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, said: “I have been left heartbroken by this. I still cannot figure out what any of this has to do with the mosque. There has never been any trouble at the Central Mosque or any demonstrations outside it.
“All this reaction from parents does is further divide our community and puts the wrong things in people’s heads. It encourages negative views towards Islam.
“We shouldn’t allow criminals such as those who carried out the Woolwich attack to hide behind their religion.”
One reader posted on the Evening News Facebook page: “Whatever happened to freedom of choice? Would there have been a outcry if it was Muslim parents not allowing their kids go to a church? I doubt it.”
However a different view was put forward by fellow reader Umera Rashid who wrote: “I’m a Muslim and I went to a Catholic primary school and I regularly went to church. My parents had no problem with it because they knew fine well I wasn’t going to become brainwashed by a simple visit to a church and it’s important to understand other faiths and integrate into society.”