The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has condemned a Conservative Party inquiry that cleared Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of breaking its code of conduct with Islamophobic comments he made about women who wear burqas.
Johnson’s comments were widely condemned at the time for denigrating the minority of women who choose to wear the face veil. He had written that they looked liked “letter boxes” or “bank robbers” in a Telegraph column in which he argued against a ban on full-face veils.
The MCB said Mr Johnson is a Member of Parliament and has a responsibility to set the tone for the rest of the UK to follow. They added that far right Islamophobes had been empowered by his rhetoric.
An MCB statement said: “The MCB further fails to see how Mr Johnson’s remarks were ‘respectful’ and ‘tolerant’ as the panel has concluded. In a year where over half of all Home Office recorded hate crimes targeted Muslims, over a hundred women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa wrote to the Conservative Party Chair to express the daily threat they face as a result of the prejudice whipped up by Mr Johnson.
“The MCB asks, what motivates mainstream Conservative politicians to treat Muslims in this way? And why does the panel appear to have ignored the higher standards expected of Members of Parliament, and the consequences of Mr Johnson’s actions?…
“Throughout 2018, regular occurrences of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party have been well documented. It is unfortunate that this investigation outcome will serve to underscore the notion that the Party is either unwilling or incapable of dealing with the scourge of Islamophobia, evidenced in the behaviour of its supporters and local councillors all the way up to its highest ranks.”
The Conservative Party has often been accused of not doing enough to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice in its ranks.
The party’s code of conduct states that Tory officials and elected representatives must “lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance” and not “use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others”.
The complaints were looked at by a supposedly independent panel which could have referred Mr Johnson to the party’s board, which has the power to expel him. But it is understood the panel has cleared him of breaching the code.
Friends of the former Foreign Secretary said the inquiry had found his newspaper article fostered “respect and tolerance” for the wearing of the burka.