Theresa May backs calls for Boris Johnson to apologise over burka comments

Theresa May backs calls for Boris Johnson to apologise over burka comments

Theresa May backs calls for Boris Johnson to apologise over burka comments

As the outcry grew, including from senior Muslim Tories, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said he had ordered Mr Johnson to apologise.

Brandon Lewis said he agreed with Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt that there was a "degree of offence" in Mr Johnson's comments.

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama, which campaigns against anti-Muslim violence, said Johnson's comments "clearly" amounted to Islamophobia.

The insider said: "It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked - we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on hard issues".

We have to call it out, the source added.

However, an ally of Mr Johnson insisted he would not be apologising, warning: "If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists".

The former foreign secretary yesterday faced a barrage of criticism after he penned a column for the Telegraph saying school teachers or university lecturers would be within their rights to refuse to talk to students who arrived at class "looking like a bank robber".

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Giving evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Johnson said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been "training journalists" at the time of her arrest, even though she maintained she was on holiday.

Muslim former Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi accused Mr Johnson of copying American right wing "dog whistle" tactics to build support for a future leadership bid.

"The Prime Minister is in denial".

Labour's Jess Phillips tweeted in response that Mr Johnson was "just a racist" in response. "I have asked Boris Johnson to apologise".

The shadow equalities minister, Naz Shah, said: "An apology isn't good enough".

Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, highlighted the acute issue surrounding Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric in her party in an open letter published by The Guardian in July.

She suggested the Mr Johnson take part in "training and engagement with the Muslim community" and accused his party of having "an issue with Islamophobia" while pointing out Theresa May had not responded more than 24 hours after the publication.

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In June, Lewis said diversity training would be offered to all members, and local associations would report back on how complaints were handled.

The council also asked if Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who backed a ban on the burka, would be spoken to by the party chairman. Mr Johnson is likely to be a contender to replace her.

"What's important is do we believe people should have the right to practise their religion and, in the case of women and the burka and niqab, to choose how they dress".

She added: "Muslim women should not be a useful political battleground for old Etonians".

Mr McDonnell also pointed to the protest at Bookmarks in Bloomsbury, central London, on Saturday as proof of a rise of the far right.

He was released from prison earlier this month but could still face jail over an allegation that he committed contempt of court by filming people in a criminal trial and broadcasting footage on social media.

The bookshop said in a statement that "around a dozen mask-wearing fascists" attempted to intimidate staff and customers and to destroy books and other materials.

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