Nigel Farage 'legitimising racism' for political ends, says Archbishop Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on Ukip leader Nigel Farage, accusing him of giving "legitimisation to racism" for political ends.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said claims by Mr Farage that staying in the European Union could lead to mass sex attacks like those on New Year's Eve in Cologne were "inexcusable".

He also expressed a "very, very major concern" that claims by the Leave campaign in the EU referendum about the impact of Turkey joining the European Union risked stoking anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK.

Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, the archbishop said that in the past, comments like those by Mr Farage - who described the threat to British women of Cologne-style attacks as the "nuclear bomb" in the referendum campaign - had themselves led to violence.

"I think that is an inexcusable pandering to people's worries and prejudices," he said.

"That is giving legitimisation to racism which I've seen in parishes in which I've served, and has led to attacks on people in those parishes. We cannot legitimise that.

"What that is is accentuating fear for political gain and that is absolutely inexcusable."

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tighter immigration controls, told the committee Mr Farage's comments had been a "very mistaken thing to say".

"I think it risks generating suspicions that may not be there. If such incidents do take place, then we will have to react to them but I don't think we should in any way encourage that line of thinking," he said.

In his evidence, Mr Welby - who refused to be drawn on whether he was for Leave or Remain - condemned comments by Mr Farage at the last general election that migrants with HIV should not be allowed in.

"It does not respect the dignity of the human person," he said.

Asked about Mr Farage blaming migrants for a causing traffic jam in which he was held up, the archbishop replied: "Words fail me."

He also said claims by the Leave campaign that a vote to Remain could result in large numbers of Turkish immigrants coming to Europe were leading to a "very high level of prejudice" against Muslims in the UK.

"It is a very, very major concern indeed. There is a sort of sense of 'Are we about to become an Islamic country?' which hovers around," he said.

"Once you ask a number of questions, you realise it's just fear and there is no evidence of any kind backing up what they are saying, but somehow it all feels very threatening and that results in a high level of prejudice against Muslims, and particularly observant Muslims."

He rejected any suggestion that adherents of a particularly religion could be barred from entering the country, as presidential contender Donald Trump is proposing for Muslims in the United States.

"It is certainly not a Christian thing to do, nor is it a rational thing to do," he said.

The archbishop reiterated his view that many people had genuine concerns about the impact of mass migration without being racist.

He said it was up to the Government to ensure that the communities affected had the resources they needed to cope - particularly in terms of health, housing and education.

"That actually, in my experience, liberates the natural generosity of people to welcome once the causes or the reasons for fear have been dispelled - and they are quite easily dispelled," he said.

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