A FORMER Archdeacon of Bradford has condemned George Galloway over his controversial comments that the city should be an "Israel-free zone", saying it could damage its reputation.
The Bradford West MP caused a storm after a video of him making the comments at a Respect Party event in Leeds earlier this month was released.
In the video, Mr Galloway (Respect) said: "We have declared Bradford an Israeli-free zone.
"We don't want any Israeli goods, we don't want any Israeli services, we don't want any Israeli academics coming to the university or college, we don't even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, even if any of them had thought of doing so."
Now, an online petition on change.org, titled 'To bring about a prosecution against George Galloway MP under S.5(1) of the Public Order Act 1986' has so far attracted more than 4,100 signatures and aims to lobby the Crown Prosecution Service to take action against him.
One of the people who has signed the petition is Canon Guy Wilkinson, who came to Bradford in 1999, and has criticised Mr Galloway for his "absurd and unjustified" views.
He left his post as Archdeacon of Bradford in January 2004 and lived in Undercliffe during his spell in the city.
He was appointed as a key adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2005.
Canon Wilkinson, who is now Vicar of St Andrew's, Fulham Fields and Area Dean of Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, said:
"It's an absurd thing to say anyway and completely unjustified.
"I saw these statements made by Mr Galloway and it seemed to me that they did nothing for the reputation of Bradford. It has always been open to all kinds of people.
"It was a thoroughly disgraceful thing for him to say that Israeli people were no longer welcome in Bradford.
"Bradford does not need that type of reputation. But it needs to build on the reputation that it welcomes all people. Bradford needs to flourish."
Dr Irene Lancaster, chairman of Broughton Park Jewish Christian Dialogue Group in Salford, who also signed the petition and is Jewish herself, also criticised Mr Galloway over his comments, saying it might put people off coming to Bradford.
She said: "He is demonising a whole people.
"I don't know if I want to go to Bradford anymore. I'm scared to go there."
Mr Galloway's comments are being investigated by West Yorkshire Police after it received two complaints. A police spokesman last night said inquiries were ongoing.
A spokesman for Mr Galloway said: "It's a complete and utter nonsense that people have done an online petition.
"These people should have more to do with their time. The police have not been in touch with us."
"Mr Galloway was merely expressing an opinion."