The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) today criticised the outcome of an inquiry into the incendiary and dehumanising comments written by the former Foreign Secretary and Uxbridge MP, Boris Johnson, in the Daily Telegraph.
His comments were widely condemned at the time for denigrating the minority of women who choose to wear the face veil. Reports at the time suggested that his Telegraph column had real-world consequences, directly leading to ‘copycat’ verbal assaults against Muslim women and the unleashing of hate and Islamophobia from Conservative supporters.
Senior Conservatives criticised Mr Johnson. His words were considered “rude” and “gratuitous” by Ruth Davidson and “irresponsible” by Faith Minister Lord Bourne. The Prime Minister and Chair of the Party demanded an apology and some leading Conservative Muslims suggested that the whip may need to be withdrawn.
Following numerous complaints, and as an investigation was launched in August 2018, the MCB warned that the party should “not allow any whitewashing of this specific inquiry currently in process” and “to avoid accusations of a whitewash, the group should include people who are aware of the seriousness of the issue and its effect on society.”
Now, the MCB has learned that an investigation which rightly recognised that the comments could be ‘provocative’, nevertheless has exonerated the writer, concluding that Conservative Party rules and its Code of Conduct do not “override an individual’s right to freedom of expression”. Mr Johnson is not a satirist – he is a Member of Parliament, and as such has a responsibility to set the tone for the rest of the UK to follow. In this case, it is far right Islamophobes who have been empowered to follow his rhetoric.
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?
The MCB awaits further information about the composition of the panel and the justification provided for the conclusions trailed in the press.
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.[ENDS]
Notes to Editors:
1.The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over
500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques,
charities and schools.
2. For further information please contact:
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 57330
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079