World Europe 31 Oct 2016 Indian-origin Kassam ...

Indian-origin Kassam withdraws from UKIP leadership contest

PTI | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Oct 31, 2016, 5:31 pm IST
Updated Oct 31, 2016, 5:31 pm IST
UK Independence Party (UKIP) leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam, right, poses for a photograph with former Royal Marine Dave Smith, 73, in Westminster, London. (Photo: AP)
 UK Independence Party (UKIP) leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam, right, poses for a photograph with former Royal Marine Dave Smith, 73, in Westminster, London. (Photo: AP)

London: Indian-origin Raheem Kassam, a blogger known for his controversial views on niqab and Sharia, on Monday withdrew his candidature from the anti-EU UKIP party leadership contest, just three days after the official launch of his campaign.

A key aide of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, 30-year-old Kassam said he was not "satisfied about the integrity of the process".

"It is a decision I have not taken lightly, but following meetings this weekend I realised the path to victory is too narrow," he said in a statement.

Kassam, son of Tanzanian immigrant parents of Gujarati origin, urged his supporters to back Peter Whittle for party leader.

His withdrawal means there are four candidates left in the UKIP race. They are Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall, John Rees Evans and Peter Whittle.

Kassam said those at the top of UKIP were treating the contest "like a coronation", adding that he was "not satisfied about the integrity of the process".

He accused some Members of the European Parliament of using party databases to "effectively campaign against me - ostensibly against the rules".

Kassam said he had not raised enough money to run "more than a digital campaign from SW1" and added that not to "feature at events all around the country would have made me a hypocrite, given how much I criticise the establishment for ignoring the country".

"I wish the UK Independence Party and whoever its new leader is all the best in ensuring Brexit happens, and in the upcoming electoral tests next year. I remain committed to the causes of the UK Independence Party, but sadly, at this campaign, it was a bridge too far for us," he said.

Kassam launched his official campaign last Friday, portraying himself as the "Farage-ist" candidate and pledging to increase UKIP's membership to more than 100,000.

After pulling out of the race, he said he would continue as editor-in-chief of the Breitbart London news website and would be travelling to the US to cover the conclusion of the presidential election campaign.

In his controversial comments that resurfaced in the wake of his nomination, he described 'niqab and sharia' as tools of "cultural jihad" and demanded a national referendum on banning the niqab.

Raised in the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, Kassam has often described himself as non-practising Muslim opposed to all sort of religious fundamentalism, and has questioned foreign funding of religious institutions.

Another candidate, London Assembly member David Kurten, withdrew yesterday. Nominations for the UKIP contest closed on Monday, with the result to be announced on November 28.

Farage, for whom Kassam worked as chief of staff, returned to the leader's role on an interim basis after his successor Diane James resigned only 18 days into the job.

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