UK govt splits deepen over burqa comments
Posted on 09/13/18 6:51 PM
Boris Johnson has returned from holidays to face both criticism and support for his burqa remarks.Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson has returned from his summer holiday to face both criticism and support over his remarks about burqas, amid deepening divisions in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party on Sunday.
Johnson, seen as the biggest threat to Prime Minister Theresa May’s struggling leadership, has become a lightning rod for discontent within the party after a newspaper column in which he said Muslim women who wear burqas look like letter boxes or bank robbers.
The comments came in a piece arguing against a ban on the Islamic full-face veil, but have been criticised as Islamophobic. Others saw the remarks as colourful rhetoric that strikes a chord with many Britons.
May has scolded Johnson, stirring anger amongst those of his supporters who see him as the focal point for resistance to her proposed “business-friendly” Brexit plan. The party has also launched an investigation into his remarks.
Under the headline “Boris sparks cabinet war” the Sunday Times said four unnamed senior ministers were dismayed at May’s handling of the situation.
“They have managed to engineer a total disaster,” one minister was quoted as saying. “Trying to silence Boris is stupid, especially when the majority of people agree with him.”
Johnson resigned from the cabinet last month in protest at May’s Brexit plan, setting himself up as a talisman for the many Conservatives who want a more radical departure from the European Union.
Johnson’s burqa remarks were defended by, amongst others, Donald Trump’s former political strategist Steve Bannon, who told the Sunday Times that his overall message had been lost because of a “throwaway line”.
Bannon has previously called on Johnson to challenge May’s leadership.
Johnson, who has made clear that he does not intend to apologise, returned to Britain on Saturday. He declined to answer reporters’ questions.
His is expected to break his silence in his regular column, due to be published by the Telegraph newspaper late on Sunday.