London, Aug.14 (ANI): Britain's Farming Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has come under fire after publicly condemning the Muslim tradition of separating men and women at weddings.
A former fireman, Fitzpatrick has represented Poplar and Canning Town since 1997 and served as a junior transport minister, London minister and as Post Office minister.
According to The Telegraph, Fitzpatrick and his wife walked out of the marriage ceremony of a constituent after discovering they would have to sit in separate rooms.
He said the gender segregation was a sign of increasing radicalisation and was damaging to social cohesion.
However, Muslim leaders insist the custom is traditional at Islamic weddings as well as in mosques, and expressed surprise that Fitzpatrick, a third of whose east London constituents are Muslims, was unaware of the fact.
It was suggested that the Labour MP was trying to appeal to white voters who may fear divided communities.
"It shows a lack of interest on the part of the MP to engage with people with different backgrounds and sadly it reflects badly on him. If he had a little bit of knowledge he would have found it was quite normal and nothing unusual for them to enjoy the celebration in this way," some said.
"There are some who prefer segregated events and some where they are joined together. We live in a society where we need to respect all traditions," they added.
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: "If he doesn't wish to attend an Islamic wedding and observe the religious customs preferred by the bride and groom, he should not go rather than insult them for perceived political gain."
The minister later told his local newspaper: "It's a disappointment. We are trying to build social cohesion in a community but this is not the way forward." (ANI)