Anti-Islam candidate among contenders to lead Britain's UKIP
LONDON (AP) -- Eleven candidates are vying to lead Britain's right-wing U.K. Independence Party, including the founder of an anti-Islam organization whose inclusion in the race has divided the party.
Anne Marie Waters, founder of a group called Sharia Watch, is on the list announced late Friday despite opposition from some UKIP members. Party leaders blocked her from being a candidate in June's national election, citing her views on Islam.
UKIP opposes Britain's European Union membership, and played a key role in bringing about the 2016 referendum that ended in a decision to leave the bloc.
But the party has struggled since achieving its main goal. It has no members in Britain's Parliament and lacks a potential leader as well-known as ex-chief Nigel Farage.
Farage has said that UKIP will be "finished" if it becomes an anti-Islam party rather than sticking to its core policies of leaving the EU and controlling immigration.
Mike Hookem, a UKIP lawmaker serving in the European Parliament, said Saturday he was resigning as a party whip to protest Waters' inclusion in the leadership race.
"I am not prepared to support someone who seeks to single out a section of our society simply due to their religious beliefs," he said.
UKIP members will vote for a new leader next month, with the winner announced at a party conference on Sept. 29.