LEEDS, England—Parliamentary candidates selected to represent the U.K. Independence Party have told The Daily Beast that they believe 9/11 was a hoax, claimed the British government was to blame for the July 7 London bombings, which killed more than 50 people, and refused to condemn those traveling to live in the so-called Islamic State.
The extraordinary claims cast doubt on UKIP’s credentials as a mainstream political party ahead of the General Election on Thursday. The party, which campaigns for the introduction of tougher immigration controls and an exit from the EU, won the largest share of the vote in Britain’s European elections last year.
Despite UKIP’s anti-immigration stance and history of members being expelled for making Islamophobic or racist remarks, two Muslim immigrants have been selected as candidates in Northern England. During interviews in the Pudsey suburb of Leeds, one of them told The Daily Beast that Tony Blair and George W. Bush had “invented terrorism,” while the other suggested vulnerable animals should be granted the right to claim asylum in Britain like refugees.
A UKIP spokesman said: "The points of view expressed here do not reflect UKIP policy." But the party declined to comment on whether there would be a formal investigation into their candidates' remarks.
UKIP’s rise from fringe campaign group to Britain’s third most popular political party has been meteoric, but it still struggles to win over black and minority ethnic voters. Among a new generation of candidates hoping to buck that trend and welcome minority voters into UKIP’s “People’s Army” are Mohammed “Harry” Boota and Owais Rajput, both immigrants to Britain who are standing for election in Bradford West and Bradford East.
Boota, who moved to Britain from Pakistan in 1967, admitted that it had not been UKIP’s stance on immigration that first attracted him to the party. “The gay marriage thing was going through,” he said. “I wrote to Her Majesty the Queen, I wrote to David Cameron. I said what you are doing is wrong. You're going against people's religion.”
After a cross-party parliamentary vote in 2013, gay marriage was legalized in Britain. UKIP was the only major party to oppose its introduction, arguing that they supported gay rights but feared churches would be forced to carry out the ceremonies.
The party officially dropped its opposition to gay marriage in the run up to this week’s election, but Boota remains unconvinced. “It's against every religion; God's primary concern is procreation,” he said. “He can't turn around and say it's all right to be gay.”
Boota was speaking at an official UKIP event that was scheduled to take place at a community center in the south of Bradford. The placards and flags were ordered down a few minutes before it was due to start, however, when the center’s manager said all political events were banned from the premises and the hall had been booked “under false pretenses.” The small, somewhat bewildered, crowd bundled into a convoy of vehicles and headed about 20 minutes away to the outskirts of Leeds, where an Indian restaurant opposite a scrap metal yard had agreed to provide emergency shelter.
Jane Collins, UKIP’s Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was the only white woman in the smart dining room apart from a couple of Eastern European staff who had been employed to hand out flyers. UKIP’s traditional anti-immigration tub-thumping was mysteriously absent from her short speech to the crowd of predominantly middle-aged South Asian men.
Collins claimed afterwards that it was entirely coincidental that the party’s central policy had been left out of her opening remarks. Boota, an aromatherapy oil salesman, was keener to address the apparent dichotomy.
“All our problems are caused by open door immigration with the EU,” he said. “Housing, transport, NHS, crime, economy, policing, you name it: uncontrolled immigration has been the cause... It affects the Asians more than it affects the whites.”
He said the wider immigrant population felt aggrieved that Europeans were allowed to move to Britain without restrictions as part of European freedom of movement regulations while immigrants from the rest of the world struggled to secure visas for their friends and families based in the rest of the world.
“It has a very dire effect on the Asians,” he said.
As a schoolboy, Boota, 59, was targeted for being an immigrant himself. He was punched as he walked home from school in Bradford and says he later suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of being ostracized as an Asian man while serving for more than 20 years in the Navy.
He claimed that all parties have racist members even though the ones from UKIP tended to get caught more often. One UKIP counselor was expelled from the party earlier this year for admitting on camera that “I really do have a problem with people with negroid features." Another elected counselor stood down after a post on Facebook that claimed Islam was a cancer. He also said of Muslim women: “Hang um all first then ask questions later.”
Nigel Farage, the party’s charismatic leader who famously conducts interviews with a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, sparked allegations of Islamophobia himself in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings when he claimed there was a “fifth column” operating in France and Britain as a result of mass immigration.
Boota said the party’s leadership needed to be better educated. “I want the leader to voice strongly support for the Muslims in this country,” he said. “Inshallah, there's going to be a candidate who is going to be on the NEC [National Executive Committee] who is going to have a voice from the Muslim community because right now there is no education within the party. The leadership doesn't know how to respond. They don't know what to say.”
Owais Rajput, an academic at Leeds Metropolitan University and the prospective parliamentary candidate for Bradford East, however, said he has detected Farage’s respect for his deeply held religious beliefs during three trips to help his leader campaign in Thanet, which is east of London.
“He respects others,” he said. “Whenever he's seen me there, there was always a cup of tea in his hand. He never ever drinks in front of me.”
Rajput, who has a full, lustrous beard, is far more concerned about the British government’s approach to Islam. Speaking in a sunny pub garden 100 yards from the curry house, he said the government was utterly failing to connect with the Muslim population. He said less spying and more trust was required to counter Islamic extremism, which appears to be on the rise within Britain.
“When something happens in the North or in East London they say, ‘Oh, hang on a second. This is radicalization.’ I'm totally against that word—and we need to be careful when we use words like jihad,” he said. “People in London created this mess; they called us homegrown, radicalized, terrorists. 7/7 happened because of our own problematic policies.”
Rajput, a Pakistani who moved to Bradford in 1995, suddenly seemed to be blaming the government for Britain’s worst terrorist attack. Three of the four jihadists, who killed 52 on buses and trains during the morning rush hour on July 7, 2005, were British-born sons of Pakistani immigrants who lived in the Leeds area.
It’s common for Islamists to cite British foreign policy as a root cause of terror attacks, but Rajput went further. “Forget Iraq, forget the foreign policy of the United Kingdom,” he said. “[There are] 1,001 issues related to our local communities.
“We need to understand the whole journey. A British-born person does not suddenly—one night or one month or one year—become a terrorist. And we have to be careful about those words,” he said. “The 7/7 people, yes they committed those crimes. They were not acceptable, but… Those were disaster policies. They [the government] had no clue, what are the needs in the North, what are the needs even in East London?”
Rajput repeatedly refused to condemn British women, some as young as 15, who have travelled to Syria to live in the Islamic State. “Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon his head, said you Muslims in a Christian-ruled country, you're not allowed to break the law. You’re bound by the law of the land, if you think by obeying the law of the land that prevents you from performing your religious duties: migrate to another country without making any trouble in that country,” he said. “That is the message, it's not me, that is the Prophet.”
He did condemn those who take up weapons for ISIS but seemed to suggest there was some sort of conspiracy in the origins of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “First of all I have to understand who created ISIS, you know?” he said. Pressed for further explanation, he said: “It’s OK I want to continue with my election. I don’t want to be blocked.”
Surely he didn’t believe ludicrous theories that the CIA or Mossad was running ISIS as some kind of false flag operation? “I don’t want to mention anybody’s name.”
As this increasingly bizarre conversation unfolded in the concrete pub garden, a fat-necked white man spotted the UKIP paraphernalia and offered his support. “Good luck, lads,” he said. “I’m voting for you and I’ve told the family to do the same. I get four votes, me.”
The working class towns and cities of Northern England, where voters have placed their cross in Labour’s box as a matter of course for generations, are seen as fertile ground by UKIP. Farage wants to bolster his band of right-wing Conservative rebels in the South-East with disaffected Labour voters in the North.
UKIP’s dreams of ten or more seats in Parliament after their victory in last year’s European elections may have faded, but the party is still scoring at around 15 percent in the opinion polls. This places it comfortably ahead of the Liberal Democrats, who currently form the coalition government along with the Conservatives.
The British voting system means UKIP are unlikely to secure many more than the two MPs they already have. Their remarkable rise in the past five years, however, has already forced the ruling Conservative party to make impossible promises on reducing immigration and offer a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union.
If the party has moved into the mainstream, it was becoming increasingly obvious in Leeds that some of their candidates had yet to follow suit. Boota, a former curry house owner who had now joined us in the pub, took up the baton.
“Terrorism was invented by Bush and Blair,” he announced. “It was revenge for 9/11. Whatever took place there, we do not know who was behind it.
“The FBI took a lot of evidence away before they even bloody got there. Then you have this wonderful video of the whole thing taking place. It’s very convenient isn't it?” he said. “Now we have the Muslims [who carried out the attack]—whether they were hired, invented, created by the Establishment themselves because you know they can create anything they like. Let's say the FBI, for example. They don't give a monkey’s—they want to create this thing against Muslims, right? They want to create that illusion of what's taken place. They have got the capability and monies to do it. We can't, sitting here in Pudsey, know what's going on in those hidden corridors of the United States security service.”
“People are getting brain-effed,” the self-proclaimed inventor of curryoke concluded.
According to Boota, one of the great things about UKIP is that candidates are able to speak out without fear of centralized party control. “If you line up members of all the parties you can tell which one is a Kipper because they are not stressed by which lie they have just told and which one they will tell next. We're not whipped and we don't have to tell lies,” he said. “Most of us are from other parties [originally], we shed all that shit of toeing the party line.”
As the interview drew to a close, Rajput brought up one more topic he wanted to discuss: asylum seekers.
“If a person whose life is in danger claims asylum here, [under a] UKIP government, if I get elected, my full support is with that person,” he said. “And asylum is not only for humans, asylum is for animals as well.”
Sorry, animals should be able to seek asylum in Britain?
"Yes, why not. A lot of people laugh at me,” he said. “They say, ‘You want welfare for horses as well?’ I say, ‘Listen: animals—they can't speak, you know?’”