AN election event featuring just the Muslim women standing in Bradford West has been criticised by two excluded candidates.

The Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) will today hold an event described as ‘an audience with’ independent candidate Salma Yaqoob and Labour’s Naz Shah.

But Conservative candidateGeorge Grant, a Christian, called the premise “unprogressive, undemocratic and deeply unhelpful”.

He said: “It is not simply that this event prevents five of the seven candidates standing for Bradford West from putting forward their prospectus, it is the notion that selected candidates should be considered of greater relevance to a specific group in the community based purely on their gender and their religion.

“Implicit in the invitation is the assumption that the best person to represent Muslim women in Bradford is a Muslim woman, or indeed that a Muslim woman candidate can speak to issues that other candidates cannot.

“I am a committed Christian who is proud to have many Muslim men and women on my campaign, as well as Christians and indeed people of no faith at all. It is absolutely imperative to me that I should be able to speak to all communities in Bradford equally in their capacity as British citizens and on the basis of our shared values and aspirations."

Muhammad Hijazi, who is standing as an independent, also condemned the event.

Mr Hijazi, a businessman and father-of-two from Clayton, said: "I am a Muslim as well and I have serious concerns about this.

"This is totally dividing communities. This is very dangerous for our community. We need to be united, not divided under religious names."

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Muslim Women's Council, said: “The women of Bradford West have requested the opportunity to engage with these two candidates on what real, tangible policies they will implement in Bradford, should they be elected to office.

"Muslim women might be a politically disenfranchised group, but now more than ever, we want to send the message that they can shape the future of this country through the simple act of casting their vote and engaging with those in positions of power."