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Ashton Reform candidate 'sorry' for offensive Islamophobic social media posts

A political candidate for Reform UK, standing in the general election, has apologised after a Islamophobic social media post has come to light.

Robert Barrowcliffe, who is standing against deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner for the Ashton-under-Lyne seat on July 4, was 18 when he wrote the post on Facebook back in 2017.

The post contained a number of criticisms towards the Muslim faith, referencing extremist attacks and the laws of Islam, claiming it is not the ‘religion of peace’.

In his apology, the Mossley resident explained that he was a teenager at the time and the post was written in anger following the Manchester Arena bombing.

The laboratory analyst and professional wrestler highlighted that he lost close friends in the attack on May 22, 2017 which led him to speak with such anger – something he now regrets.

In a statement, Mr Barrowcliffe said: “I was 18, and in college when I wrote that statement and I was deeply upset and angry when I wrote it. This was just after the Manchester Arena bombing when I lost family friends in that attack and it hit very close to home. 

“I do not believe that all Muslims are to blame for that horrific and deeply sad terrorist incident, and in the years since, I have developed friendships and great respect for the Muslims in my life and the Islamic faith on the whole. British Muslims share my faith in God and share my love of Jesus Christ, and there are many more commonalities between us than there are differences. 

“Obviously there is a small minority of the Muslim community in this country that have radical views, but the vast majority are good, hard-working, family-loving people who deserve all the love, compassion and respect in the world. I strongly disavow and apologise for my angry response from seven years ago. 

“My anger was misplaced onto Islam as a whole rather than the individual attackers, and the government and MI5 that failed to protect our children. I instead say that love, respect and dialogue with our Muslim community to root out the causes of radical extremism, and address these issues at the core is the answer.”

The historic post has since been deleted by the Reform UK candidate as well as the old social media account. In his election biography, Mr Barrowcliffe mentions how he cares deeply about all of Ashton-under-Lyne and the people that live here having been born and raised in the area. 

A spokesperson for Reform UK said: “Millions of people who are struggling want journalists to discuss policy and ideas not juvenile gotcha identity politics. The snap election truncated vetting. 

“But the media need to grow up and debate serious ideas with those running the party. We take all allegations very seriously and will take appropriate action after a thorough internal investigation. 

“It must be recalled that it is no crime to follow people with whom one has profound disagreements; in fact many on the left follow those on the right.”

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed that this is currently being investigated but no arrests have been made at this stage.

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