INDEPENDENT candidate for Batley & Spen Paul Halloran had to defend himself against accusations of exhibiting “far-right rhetoric” at a hustings event.
Candidates were asked to “define Islamophobia” and outline steps they would take to combat it.
Mr Halloran said: “Racism...should be called out, no matter who perpetrates it. Regarding Islamophobia, I don’t want it to become a word that is used to cover things up and stop debate.
“One thing I don’t see a lot of in the Muslim community is people commenting on grooming gangs and terrorism.
“People of every denomination need to talk openly and honestly because the wider populace will take notice if people say, ‘this is wrong’.
“Let’s not invent a word that will stop us from debating those things,” he added.
A member of the audience voiced concerns that Mr Halloran’s answer perpetuated “far-right rhetoric”.
But Mr Halloran responded: “I haven’t got a racist bone in my body, and telling the truth does not make you a racist.”
He revealed that his mother had taken a young Jamaican boy into her home for six months to prevent him becoming homeless.
“I’m still in touch with him now and he acknowledges that he’s forever in our debt,” he said. Please do not lecture me on being right-wing. What I said was we need to have open conversations.”