An election poster about immigration has angered Hindus and Muslims, who say it demonises ethnic minorities.

The Conservative Party poster, which carries the slogan: "It's not racist to impose limits on immigration", has been widely used as part of the party's general election campaign.

But its decision to put one on a billboard opposite a Hindu temple in Portslade, East Sussex, prompted accusations of racial insensitivity.

The temple, in Trafalgar Road, which is a focal point for about 250 Hindu families in south Sussex and further afield, has stressed it is independent of party politics and does not support any one candidate over the others.

But individuals who worship at the temple have spoken out against the placement of the poster, which was taken down this week.

Dipak Valand, a member of the temple's congregation, said: "Those who saw it felt it was not appropriate, primarily because there's a cultural community centre there.

"Its position anywhere in that area would have been seen as quite offensive."

A fellow member, Jipesh Shamji, said: "Most of us were unhappy with the poster. The words racist' and immigration' are mentioned and it puts our community and other faiths on the spot.

"It sends out a lot of messages and could give out the message that it's okay to be racist."

Ashok Patel, who also attends the temple, said: "Some of our people are immigrants. The poster draws attention to the issue of racism and we don't want this problem on our doorstep. It provokes racial tension."

Muslims have also taken offence to the tone of the poster.

Dr Abduljalil Sajid, a Sussex muslim leader and chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, said: "There is no difficulty with talking about asylum and immigration but the problem is the spin which is being given to it.

"The tone of the debate is racist and so is this poster because it's creating demonisation of certain sections of the community.

"We ask politicians not to target black and Asian minorities. Racism, Islamaphobia and anti-semitism are deep-rooted in society and this approach is not helping."

But Conservative candidate for Hove and Portslade, Nicholas Boles, said he had only received one complaint about the positioning of the poster.

He said: "These billboards go up all around the country and their locations are not picked by politicians or candidates but by media-buying companies.

"I don't believe it's insensitive. It's saying what is true.

"It's not racist to talk about these issues and I've had approaches from immigrants who have concerns about new immigration, not least if it threatens their own position."

On Monday, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants accused politicians of being short-sighted and potentially fuelling anti-immigrant sentiments.

Friday, April 22