Nigel Farage has retreated from his call for the UK government to take Syrian refugees into the UK, saying that only Christians from the country should be allowed in.
The Ukip leader caused a furious backlash from his party members over the weekend after saying that David Cameron had a duty to take in Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives.
The call put him at odds with the coalition government, who are refusing to take any refugees from the country.
However, in a U-turn which will lead to accusations of bigotry, he has now said that only Christians from the country should be admitted.
He told the Jeremy Vine Show that Syrian Muslims could flee to neighbouring countries.
"It's bad enough for Sunni and Shia. At least there are neighbouring countries that will take them," he said.
"Where on Earth are the Christians going to go? Christians are now a seriously persecuted minority."
A spokesperson added: "Christians are being increasingly persecuted across the Middle East and Syria as extreme Islamist elements seek to purge the region of Christianity.
"If we do not help these people then who will? We must as a nation help Christians who are fleeing Syria to escape death and torture by allowing some to come to the UK."
Farage's original comments made no mention of discriminating against Muslim refugees.
He told the BBC on Sunday: "I think, actually, there is a responsibility on all of us in the free West to try and help some of those people fleeing Syria, literally in fear of their lives."
His blanket call for the UK to take in Syrian refugees caused a furious backlash among members on Ukip's Facebook page.