Organisers of a debate which ended with a Labour candidate walking out have hit back at accusations that they were in any way 'discriminatory'.
The event 'An Audience with Naz Shah and Salma Yaqoob' ended controversially after Naz Shah left shortly after arriving on the grounds that the Conservative candidate for Bradford West, George Grant had not been given a platform to speak.
The group say Naz Shah had been told of the nature of the event prior to attending.
In a statement released today Muslim Women's Council said, "The event was framed from the outset as an audience with Naz Shah and Salma Yaqoob, never a hustings.
"Both candidates were contacted prior to the event and informed that the audience would be mixed.
"It was explicitly pointed out that the purpose of the event was to allow the constituents of Bradford West to engage with the two Muslim women standing for election.
"Naz Shah had the opportunity to decline our invitation in full knowledge of this.
"If she was taking a principled stand as she claimed, she should have declined our invitation."
The statement continued, "Had Naz Shah sincerely believed this was a women-only event, she should not have invited her male supporters to attend, which leads us to believe she was intent on mounting insurmountable reputational damage on our organisation and by extension, on Bradford, the very city she claims to champion.
"We have two prominent British Muslim women standing for the same seat, a first for this General Election which is worth celebrating.
"Rather than creating division on the basis of gender and faith, we wanted to reach out to an electorate often overlooked, and in fact to honour requests from these women to have an audience with the two candidates.
"Our decision to host an audience with two female Muslim candidates was deliberate.
"As an organisation that works at a grassroots level with Muslim women in Bradford, we wanted to mobilise them to exercise their right to vote. Muslim women have historically been sidelined in areas of political engagement.
"Recent findings that up to eight million women may not vote at the general election are incredibly worrying.
"We take seriously any accusations of discrimination on the basis of faith or gender.
"We regret Naz Shah chose not to remain and participate in the event. The Muslim Women’s Council was founded on values of fairness and equality.
"This is evidenced throughout our work such as the Curry Circle which feeds predominantly white men, Bradford Women for Peace, the Great Get Together, and our head coverings book project which has brought together Muslim, Jewish and Christian women, to name but a few. "In the spirit of values of fairness and equality that are at the very crux of what we stand for, we will continue to organise events that promote inclusion and dialogue for the betterment of our community, not just during election time."
Ms Shah had earlier said in a statement, "I have not and will not ever compromise my values.
"Today I felt no option but to walk out of a packed event being held in Bradford West.
"I was originally invited to a Muslim Women's Council event, having being offered a platform to speak to Muslim women to encourage participation in the democratic process amongst a group of traditionally under represented and disengaged voters, with the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob.
She added, "I felt very uneasy at the exclusion of my fellow candidates and urged the organisers to open the platform prior to the event."