The leader of the British National party, Nick Griffin, said yesterday that he stood by a secretly filmed speech in which he denounced Islam as a "vicious, wicked faith".
". He told Leeds crown court that the religion was "a dragon, the terrible mortal enemy of all our fundamental values and something which, unchecked, will bring misery and disaster to this country".
But the 46-year-old Cambridge graduate denied that his views were an attack on Muslims or Asians. He said: "There`s a huge difference between criticising a religion and saying this is an attack on the people who follow it. When I criticise Islam, I criticise that religion and the culture it sets up, certainly not Muslims as a group and most definitely not Asians."
Mr Griffin, of Llanerfyl, Powys, denies four charges of using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred at a series of private party meetings two years ago. Undercover film footage of him denigrating the murdered black student Stephen Lawrence and accusing young Asians of grooming white girls for prostitution was shown on the BBC last July.
Mr Griffin agreed that his attacks regularly used the word "Asian" but explained that this was partly because the media used the word and because he thought very fast and almost made up his speeches as he went along. At one point he apologised for speaking too fast to the judge, explaining that because he has an artificial glass left eye, he might miss indications that he should slow down.
Asked why he referred in his speeches to "any young Paki street thug", Mr Griffin said that his audience knew what he meant. It was shorthand similar to talking about "white trash who wander round wearing hoodies".
Mr Griffin also accused multiculturalism of turning Britain into a "disaster". He said: "I admire people of all races but I would prefer my children, my people, to keep themselves to themselves. It causes problems.
"My Sikh friends feel like that too. They want their grandchildren to look like they do."
The case continues tomorrow.