United National Congress candidate for Barataria/San Juan, Saddam Hosein, left and incumbent MP Dr Fuad Khan greet a resident during a walkabout on Don Miguel Road in Barataria yesterday.

The Nur E Islam masjid of El Socorro, San Juan, yesterday distanced itself from a poster and social media statement attributed to the organisation which questioned the lifestyle of UNC Barataria/San Juan candidate Saddam Hosein and the ruling PNM has called on the UNC to look within its own ranks to ascertain who did the poster.

UNC PRO Anita Haynes, who has also denied the allegation, accused the PNM of doing the poster.

PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan, in turn, accused the UNC of not only being behind the Hosein poster but also behind a fake video of PNM’s Barataria/San Juan candidate Jason Williams.

The war involving the alleged poster and video arose after a social media message circulated yesterday alleging, “The brothers in Nur E Islam are concerned about the quality of the UNC candidate and what we have heard about his peculiar lifestyle. We would need this cleared up soon because it can divide the community. The Masjid itself stays away from politics but we have a big membership in El Socorro. Some brothers are saying the UNC is very insultive of Islam to send such a candidate.”

However, Nur E Islam head Imam Shiraz Ali told Guardian Media, “The masjid has nothing to do with that. It’s terrible that anyone would make an association without evidence. It’s totally not Islamic. The masjid would never associate itself with that. We know Senator Hosein to be a practising Muslim. We have no evidence of those messages.”

Ali said he was called by someone about it and he also replied that the masjid management and Jamaat weren’t associated in any form or fashion “with the distasteful messages posted regarding honourable senator Saddam Hosein.”

Ali said the masjid doesn’t condone disparaging remarks about the general elections. He added it was wrong to attribute any such poster to the masjid and no-one gave permission to make any disparaging statements.

“We remain neutral, we don’t get involved in electoral politics or take sides, we have members who follow all parties,’’ Ali added.

The UNC’s Haynes yesterday said, “(The poster) is ridiculous. It’s unfortunate he’d have to address personal attacks like this. But we’re confident he’s going to breathe fresh air into elections and we hope the future of politics sees such attacks going away.’’

UNC deputy leader Jearlean John declined to comment.

False Rumours: Hosein

Meanwhile, during a walkabout yesterday, Barataria/San Juan candidate Saddam Hosein insisted that the “rumours” circulating on social media about his alleged lifestyle were untrue and accused the ruling PNM of a smear campaign.

“The PNM has started their smear campaign already. The rumours are false. I’m going forward, focused. The more they attack me, the stronger I’ll get,” he said.

Walking together with the constituency’s incumbent MP Dr Fuad Khan, he expressed confidence in succeeding his UNC counterpart.

“We are ready to take Barataria/San Juan forward again with the UNC, and we are going to win this next election,” Hosein said.

The PNM’s Rohan Sinanan, meanwhile insisted, “The UNC must look within its own ranks for the answers regarding who published that poster on Saddam.

“If they do, they might find the person – or one of their associates – who also created the fake video on our candidate Jason Williams.”

The video purported to be Williams throwing a free party, offering rum and pork.

Sinanan added, “We’re very concerned about this. We don’t associate PNM’s name or our candidate with that unfortunate video.’’

PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing added, “Understand this: The PNM absolutely distances itself from any foul play in this election! We take no responsibility for any alleged circulation of this poster. It’s not our style of politics to engage in that type of character assassination.”

She added, “We’ve seen the UNC use the cloak of Parliamentary privilege on several occasions to attack and assassinate the character of our political leader, his parent and his family. We’ve seen the UNC’s leader call the PNM’s leader an ‘Oreo’, a reference to race – that’s not PNM politics.’’

She claimed the fake video on Williams—involving pork and rum—was a deliberate UNC attempt to incite religious instability in a constituency like Barataria/San Juan. There are several Muslim communities in the constituency.

She added, “I’m sure (this video) has its roots in the UNC’s bowels. PNM abides by the political code of conduct, whose rules won’t see us taking nasty swipes at people. But these things are common in their playbook, it’s identical to past UNC attempts at character assassination – Hosein stands no chance against Jason Williams.’’

– with reporting by Joshua Seemungal