A Ukip spokesman has been accused of being 'alarmist' after calling grooming gangs a 'holocaust of our children'.
Alan Craig said the practice of preying on mainly “white English girls” could be traced right back “to Mohammed himself”, in a speech at the party’s annual conference in Birmingham.
He described the issue as “the biggest social crime and scandal in our country for 200 years”, and claimed children were at risk because they were not being told the truth.
In a speech greeted by a standing ovation from delegates, Mr Craig said the problem was “an issue literally made in hell”.
He said: “I’m talking about the decades of abuse, grooming, assaulting, raping, drugging of underage girls up and down the country.
“I’m talking about something that has happened outside schools, outside children’s homes, in shopping malls, quite openly in public up and down the country in towns and cities.
“What has happened over the last decade is nothing less – and I use this word advisedly – a holocaust.
“It has been a holocaust of our children, of our daughters.”
Mr Craig is a Christian campaigner and former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance. His selection as a Ukip candidate at the 2015 general election caused controversy over alleged homophobia following his comments about “gay rights stormtroopers”.
Speaking in Birmingham on Friday, he added that the majority of – but not all – the victims of grooming gangs had been white girls.
He initially said he would not talk about the perpetrators, something that was greeted by a shout of “shame” from inside the hall.
But he went on to accuse politicians of “refusing to name the issue” and hiding behind phrases for attackers like “men” and “Asian men, as if the Chinese and Japanese were involved in doing this sort of thing”.
He continued by highlighting a report by the Quilliam think tank on the issue of grooming, saying: “They said quite clearly that overwhelming the perpetrators are from Pakistani and Muslim backgrounds.
“And they traced a major part of the influence back to the Islamic faith and to Mohammed himself.”
A Quilliam spokesman said Mr Craig had used “alarmist and unnecessary language”.
The report which Mr Craig referred to said acceptance of child marriage among some Sunni Muslims “stems from the selective reading of hadith literature” which is disputed by other followers of the faith “as it is in conflict with several other historical accounts suggesting that this report is inaccurate”.
The spokesman said: “While we discuss that the scale and severity of this crime is significant and needs to be dealt with swiftly, in the report, we caution against exaggerating the issue.”
He pointed out that a child sexual exploitation study in 2011 had found that 0.01% of the UK’s Asian population (and 0.03% of the UK’s ethnically Pakistani population) were child sex offenders.
He added: “Thus, to say that the Asian population living in the UK has a CSE (child sexual exploitation) problem, or even that the British Pakistani community has a CSE problem is wholly inaccurate and a misrepresentation of the facts.
“It is more correct to say that there is strain of Asian men, mostly confined to towns and cities in the North of England, that have developed an unfortunately successful method of identifying and grooming young, vulnerable girls to engage in sexual activity with them, whilst their control over their victim’s emotional and mental wellbeing ensures there is minimal risk of being reported on or caught.”