Politics

Boris Johnson apologises for ‘hurt and offence’ caused by Islamophobia in Conservative Party



Boris Johnson has apologised for the “hurt and offence” that has been caused by Islamophobia within Conservative ranks.

Speaking at the Goonhilly Earth Station in Corwall, the Prime Minister told reporters: “Obviously whenever we have an incident of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia or whatever in the Conservative Party, we take a zero-tolerance approach.

“We have a one bounce and we deal with it approach to this.

“We are going to have an independent inquiry into Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, every manner of prejudice and discrimination, and it will start before Christmas.”

Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson is shown around satellite dishes owned by telecoms company Avanti at Goonhilly Earth Station in Helston (AP)

Asked if he apologised for the Islamophobia that has taken place in the Tory party, he replied: “Of course and for all the hurt and offence that has been caused – of course we do.

“All that is intolerable and it’s so important as a country that we don’t allow that kind of thing, and that’s why we’re going to have the independent inquiry.”

It comes as Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn faces further intense pressure to apologise to the Jewish community amid criticism of his handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

Earlier on Wednesday, a long-serving Conservative Parvez Akhtar called on Mr Johnson to “unequivocally apologise” for comments he made about Muslim women, as he accused the party of a “Muslim blind spot”.

Boris Johnson compares women in burkas to “letter boxes”

Mr Akhtar, the Tory candidate for Luton South, pointed to remarks made by the prime minister last year, likening women wearing burkas to “letter boxes” or “bank robbers”.

He said the “hurt and anger” caused by Mr Johnson’s words had become “increasingly obvious” during his campaign trail, as he fights to win over the 30 per cent Muslim seat.

He said the PM’s comments had “reinforced the widely held view that the Conservative Party has a blind spot when it comes to Muslims.”

While Mr Johnson apologised for Islamophobia in Tory ranks, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women.

In an emotionally-charged statement shared on Twitter, Mr Akhtar wrote: “As the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Luton South and a member of the Conservative Party since 2005, I have known about anti-Muslim hatred within the party and in fact have personally experienced on two occasions in 2009 and 2017, but I always have felt that the only way to change the Conservative Party was from within.

“During my campaign for Luton South where 30% of the population is Muslim, it has become increasingly obvious, the hurt and anger that has been caused by the comments of the Prime Minister about Muslim women.

“This view is further exacerbated by the fact that the Prime Minister refuses to apologise for those comments.”

Mr Akhtar, a former mayoral candidate for Bedford, then criticised Mr Johnson for failing to hold an independent enquiry into Islamophobia, “despite committing to it on live television.”

He continued: “As a loyal and long serving member of the Conservative party, it is very difficult for me to raise this because I passionately believe that a Conservative government is the best thing for our country including for Muslim communities.”

However, he said: “I can no longer remain silent as I would be complicit in the blatant discrimination which exists not only within the party towards individuals but also when it comes to the policy agenda.

“I am therefore calling on the Prime Minister to unequivocally apologise for his comments about Muslim women and agree to hold a full independent enquiry into islamophobia within the Conservative Party.”

It comes after chancellor Sajid Javid refused to condemn the party leader for his use of offensive language in last year’s newspaper column, during a campaign event in Bolton on Monday.

Asked directly whether he would use a term like “letterbox” or “bank robber” to describe a Muslim woman, the cabinet minister said: “The prime minister himself has been asked that question a number of times and he explained why he used that language – it was to defend the rights of women, whether Muslim women or otherwise.

“So he’s explained that and given a perfectly valid explanation.”



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