The Archbishop of Canterbury has accused Ukip leader Nigel Farage 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 sexual attacks such as those which occurred on New Year’s Eve in Cologne were “inexcusable”.
Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, the archbishop said that in the past, such comments had in themselves resulted in 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.”
Mr Farage drew widespread condemnation with his claim at the weekend that the threat to British women of mass sex attacks - such as occurred in Cologne - if Britain voted to stay in the EU was the “nuclear bomb” of the referendum campaign.
The archbishop - who refused to be drawn on whether he was for Leave of Remain - accepted people had genuine fears about the impact of mass migration, but said that did not make them racists.
However, he said that the way to deal with such concerns was in ensure the communities affected had the resources they needed to cope.
“The answer to fear is not to say it’s improper to fear. But it is to recognise fear and to address the causes of the fear,” he said.