British Jews are fearful of Muslims living in the country, according to Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage claimed that the Jewish community’s concern was prompted by the antisemitic attacks in France.
The Ukip leader refused to condemn comments made by Ukip’s candidate for Hendon, Raymond Shamash.
Dr Shamash, who is Jewish, had said he fears all 2.8 million Muslims living in Britain.
When asked if Dr Shamash’s comments were Islamophobic, Mr Farage said: “I am sure there are plenty of other people in the Jewish community who would, in private, echo what he said.
“In saying that, he reflects what I think are growing fears in the Jewish community. Look at what is happening to the Jewish population in some French cities.”
Mr Farage made his comments while out campaigning in Thanet South at the weekend, the Kent seat he is hoping to win on May 7. The latest polls show he is neck-and-neck with his Conservative rival – and voters seemed happy to see Mr Farage as he toured the constituency, smiling for selfies with local campaigners. “He’s the king of selfies,” laughed one party worker.
“He’s put Ramsgate on the map,” remarked one woman. “No one was talking about us before.”
At the doorway of the Ukip office in Ramsgate, stood local party chairman Martyn Heale. Mr Heale, a former member of the National Front, made a name for himself when he appeared on BBC documentary Meet the Ukippers.
But he was not speaking to the media today. “I’ll leave that to someone else,” he said, walking off.
Inside the office, Mr Farage – or “the boss”, as he is called by his entourage – took a coffee break to talk about those “fears” – to put forward his party’s perspective on the rise of radical Islam, immigration, Israel, allegations of racism and rumours of an agreement with the Tories.
He said: “We have been incredibly weak in looking at the way mosques operate. Preachers in those mosques have come in, saying things that no other religion would get away with… There is no rabbi who would get away with saying things like that – it would be a national scandal.
“The two areas where radical Islam is the biggest problem is: schools and prisons. They are both state-run. We could do something about that if we were prepared to be a bit firmer, but we are not prepared to be a bit firmer because we are scared.
“The sexual abuse cases in Rotherham and Rochdale – we were scared to do anything that may have been seen as Islamophobic or racist, so we turned a blind eye to practices.”
He added: “My view is this: we have a long pluralist tradition of different religions mixing in Britain through private observance, but, publically we have to live under one law.
“There are some who are pushing through Sharia law, total alternatives to the British way of life.
“We have to be more robust in defending our Judeo-Christian culture.”
He adds that he would ban Britons who gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State from being allowed back into the UK. As for the three British teenagers who are believed to have run away to become jihadi brides, “they are minors, it is different”.
But Mr Farage says there is an even greater danger facing the Jewish community – the UK’s membership of the European Union.
“I would say this to British Jews,” he said. “The Jewish community have come to this country; they have benefited from our culture of democracy, tolerance and a legal system that gave individuals huge personal protection against the state.
“That part of the country is rapidly becoming very different. The highest court in the land is no longer our Supreme Court; we are incapable of holding our position on the world stage. Some of those basic freedoms that British Jews enjoyed coming here are becoming eroded.”
He appeared to be taken aback by the JC poll, which revealed that 69 per cent of Jewish voters would support the Tories, 22 per cent would back Labour, while less than two per cent would support UKIP.
He said: “It does surprise me, especially given that so much of the Jewish community is involved in private business.
“If they are voting Conservative, they are voting for Brussels. If you run a business, it does not really matter if David Cameron or Ed Miliband is in charge. All the rules on employment, health and safety at work and environmental law will be set somewhere else.”
He insists that his party’s reputation for being anti-immigrant is “a massive misconception”.
“The real problem is we have an open door policy to nearly half-a-billion people,” he said. “We think that is madness. We should have an Australian-style points system [for immigration]. Countries around the world have what Ukip is advocating. It is as a result of EU membership, that [our stance] is twisted and turned on its head.”
Tommy Robinson, the former head of far-right group the English Defence League who now rejects the group's view, has said that EDL members would back Ukip. So do Ukip policies attract racists?
“Do the Liberal Democrats attract paedophiles?” Mr Farage fired back. “Their record’s not been very good has it? There have been a couple of arrests, candidates de-selected, the Cyril Smith case. Do the Liberal Democrats attract paedophiles? I don’t think they do particularly.
“There you are. We are what we are. I think our ethos is pretty clear for all to see.”
Mr Farage is keen to emphasise that Israel would remain a friend of Britain under his leadership. The Member of the European Parliament, who has never been to Israel, dismisses any suggestion that leaving the EU would affect UK-Israel trade, which is currently at record levels.
“I would not buy that argument at all,” he said. “EU membership, in most cases, holds back trade agreements for us globally.”
And in response to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for Jews to make aliyah in the face of rising antisemitism, he laughs: “We wish Israel well, but we hope they do not listen to him.”
The Kent-born politician, a father-of-four, is “confident, but not complacent” that he will win his seat on May 7. If not, he will stand down – though it is hard to picture the party without the co-founder at its helm.
“It has been a long road,” he said. “For years, it was quite a lonely one – but it’s not now. Our achievements over the last couple of years have been extraordinary for a country that is not used to radical political change.”
He does not deny the possibility of Ukip agreeing to join a coalition with the Conservatives.
“Never say impossible,” he said. “Because you have to be an idiot in life to say impossible because you never know.
“I think it is unlikely that Ukip would want to be in a coalition. I think Ukip wants to use this general election as a springboard to moving on by 2020, being a serious major national player. To enter into a coalition, would be seen by our voters, frankly, as selling out for personal gain…
“A significant amount of our support comes from non-voters, people who otherwise would be outside the process. All of which lays to rest this rubbish about Ukip being a ‘protest vote’. Ukip is not a protest vote. People are coming out, voting for us, who haven’t voted for anyone over the past twenty years because they see us as offering hope.”
With two security guards waiting outside it is clear the campaign has come at a personal cost. “It’s not the way you choose to live,” said Mr Farage, who has regularly faced anti-Ukip protestors. “I’ve got these lunatics after me every day.”
He added: “There are two types of people in politics. There are those that want to be something and there are those that want to do something. And I’m a member of the second category; my motivation is changing things, not getting titles.
“To some extent, I’ve tried to be a leading figure for Euroscepticism right across the entire continent. It’s a big hurdle. I’ve jumped some big hurdles in the last couple of years. This is the biggest hurdle yet. This is the Becher’s Brook of my political career. I need to clear it and land safely on the other side.”