The leader of the Muslim Council of Great Britain has sparked condemnation by religious and political leaders, after he claimed in a radio interview that gay relationships are damaging the foundations of society, and that homosexuality carries unusually high health risks.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, heads the Muslim Council of Britain, labelled by many as a moderate Islamic group that engages with the British political system.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme last night, he claimed that introduction of gay marriages: “does not augur well in building the very foundations of society: stability, family relationships. It is something we would certainly not in any form encourage the community to be involved in.”

Sir Iqbal went on to claim that homosexuality “is a practice that in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in a society, it is not acceptable.

“Each of our faiths tells us that it is harmful and, I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the forms of various illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area.”

The comments sparked fierce reaction from across the religious and political spectrum.

Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism today told PinkNews.co.uk: “This type of prejudicial comment sadness me. It is supremely ironic that a leading representative of a group that itself suffers unfair prejudice has made such comments that may in themselves lead to the prejudicial treatment of another minority group.

“Liberal Judaism affirms the right of gay men and women to openly celebrate their relationships.”

Alan Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP said: “This is an absurd medieval view. One should separate the religious from the secular. Such general condemnation is no longer acceptable in a civilised modern world.”

Stephen Pound, the Labour MP for Ealing North, told the Times: “It’s a cruel and vicious blow to strike against people who are born the way they are. We are living in 21st-century northern Europe, not 7th-century Arabia. It may come as a shock to Mr Sacranie, but I know many gay Muslims who are living perfectly normal, decent lives.”

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on human rights, said: “To imply that homosexuality itself was unacceptable is a form of intolerance that’s deplorable.”