Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s recent comment as a columnist on Islamic full-face veils has sparked an investigation and left the Conservatives divided.
In a column in Daily Telegraph, he compared Muslim women wearing burqas to ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers.’
Whether he said it in jest or not, Conservatives are concerned as the comment was improper, offensive and hurtful in a country where Muslims make up at least 5% of the population.
Johnson’s political career, which looked extremely bright, may be hanging in balance now as an independent panel of investigators will examine whether his remarks breached the party’s code of conduct. If they find any violation of the code, Johnson may face expulsion from the party.
Soon after the controversial article was published, many even within the Conservative party accused him of stoking Islamophobia. That prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to ask him to apologise. But Johnson ignored her call.
Tory MP Mohammed Sheikh told BBC that he received vile Islamophobic messages after calling for Johnson to be sacked.
Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone too made a call to dump Johnson over his burqa remarks.
However, many party members feel that with May’s popularity waning, Johnson is preparing to replace her as the next prime minister by projecting himself as a tough leader with strong anti-migrant, far rightist and anti-European views. They see his burqa remark as a smart move in that direction.
Since a far-right movement is emerging in Europe, they think Johnson may join it.
Mr Bean actor backs Boris
British actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, best known for his role as Mr Bean, said Johnson’s joke about burqa was a good one.
In a letter published in The Times on Friday, Atkinson wrote that whether Johnson apologises for the joke or not, the almost perfect visual simile will stay in the public consciousness for some time to come.
All jokes about religion hurt and there is no need to apologise for them. But one should apologise for a bad joke, he said.