A TOWN council mayor who claimed Muslims “cause mayhem with explosives” quit the Conservative party last night.
Mirfield Mayor Clr Robert Bennett provoked outrage when comments he made about Islam in an email were leaked.
He told a meeting of Mirfield Town Council last night that he was withdrawing from the Conservative party – but he remains mayor following a vote of confidence.
Clr Bennett’s email late last year had been in response to an apparent request from the Huddersfield-based Ahmadiyya Muslim Association for permission to seek funding.
But the association insisted that no application for cash had been made.
Clr Bennett wrote in the email: “I am aware Islamic organisations are keen to promote a view that they are peaceful, forward-thinking individuals who wish to integrate into the British way of life.
“The policy of clothing the feminine population of Dewsbury in black sack-like clothing from head to toe, the occasional trip out to cause mayhem with explosives and the proposal that all those of homosexual persuasion should be killed by shooting or other means is adequate and practical testimony to the level of progress being made in this direction.
“I, for one, am not prepared to spend the time on something that can be dealt with elsewhere… We have enough non-religious problems to address in Mirfield at this time without adding a religious dimension to our discussions.”
The Conservative group on Kirklees Council condemned the remarks at the time and Clr Bennett apologised in January.
At last night’s meeting the mayor again expressed regret for his remarks.
He said: “I would like to confirm my previous apology to the residents of Mirfield and to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Huddersfield who mistakenly believed that the comments were directed at them.
“I apologise for any distress.”
Clr Bennett added: “I view with great concern the way that comments made by me – for which I have apologised – have been exploited for party political purposes.
“I support David Cameron’s policies regarding better community cohesion.”
With an investigation into the leaked email under way, Clr Bennett told the town council: “I have decided to withdraw from membership of the Conservative party until such time as this matter is resolved.”
He denied the Conservative leader had phoned him to demand his resignation. Clr Bennett also said he would continue to represent Hopton ward on Mirfield Town Council.
He then left the meeting room to allow the other councillors to discuss the issue.
Clr Keith Sibbald, of Northorpe ward, spoke in the mayor’s defence.
He said: “Those comments were intended to be off the cuff, but they have been taken up and used in an almost barbaric fashion by the Press.”
Clr Sibbald went on to accuse Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik and the British National Party of using the controversy “to make political gain out of a private email”.
He added: “I’m saddened that Bob has withdrawn from the Conservative party but I understand his reasons. He doesn’t want people who seek political gain to use him as a vehicle to attack the Conservative party and David Cameron in particular.”
Clr Sibbald then proposed a vote of confidence in Clr Bennett as mayor, which was passed. Clr Bennett then re-entered the room.
l Also at last night’s meeting, deputy mayor Clr Martyn Bolt updated councillors on his investigation into the leaked email.
He said he had discovered unidentified log-ins to the town council’s email account on November 23, December 1 and December 3.