The Jewish community has reacted with anger and dismay at former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie’s remarks about a hijab-wearing Channel 4 news reporter who covered the terrorist attack in Nice.

Writing in The Sun, MacKenzie took aim at Fatima Manji and questioned her suitability to present a story on the topic of Islamist terrorism dressed in traditional Muslim garments and head-covering.

Posted online on Monday, MacKenzie said he could “scarcely believe my eyes,” in his column, titled: “Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice?”

He asked: “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Describing Islam as a “male-dominated and clearly violent religion,” he asked whether Channel 4 would similarly have had a Hindu reporting on terrorism in India, or an Orthodox Jew reporting on Israel-Palestine.

A screenshot of the Sun’s tweet of the article, which caused so much controversy and anger

In a sign of anger across much of the Jewish community, Board of Deputies vice-president Marie van der Zyl described MacKenzie’s comments as “very regrettable” and “unhelpful”.

She said: “We expect employers to select candidates on their ability to do a job, not on their religious affiliation or lack thereof. It is unhelpful for community relations if professionals like Fatima Manji are not seen as suitable to present a story – just because they are Muslim.

“The article makes the unhelpful and unsupported assumption that a Muslim presenter cannot give adequate balance to a story on Islamist extremism. This drives a wedge between Muslims and others, which will alienate British Muslims, when in fact most Muslims are as appalled at extremism as the rest of us and are the most important constituency in the fight against it.”