A local councillor has defended his decision to walk out of a council chamber because a Muslim prayer was being read.

Malcolm Hey, Conservative member of Portsmouth City Council, said that he believed the local authority should remain a Christian entity because that was the “nation’s tradition”.

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Paula Riches had invited local Imam Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo to say a prayer following a Christian prayer at a recent meeting of the Hampshire council.

Mr Hey said that the ceremonies and heritage of the UK’s government were closely linked to the Christian religion and he did not believe in “multiplicity” taking over.

He added that as a Christian, he did not want to take part in a prayer for another religion.

Mr Hey said: “Although I am happy to learn about Islam and visit mosques as an observer and have colleagues who are Muslim, it is different to participating and worshipping in the religion, the Gods we worship are very, very different.

”Christianity is our official religion and, although we have various Muslims in Portsmouth with an immigrant population of about 5% with the Muslim population within that, it doesn’t seem appropriate when the majority call themselves Christian or have an affinity to Christianity.

”I am wanting to maintain the status quo. If we start having prayers to Muslims, Buddhists and so on, how long will it be before we allow the Jedi Council to have their part?”

Ms Riches said: “It’s very disrespectful and I will tell him so.”