August 07, 2018
Prime minister supports Tory chairman in seeking apology for comments about Muslims.
Theresa May calls on Boris Johnson to say sorry for burqa remarks
Theresa May has rebuked Boris Johnson over his claim that Muslim women in burqas resemble letter boxes and bank robbers, urging the former foreign secretary to apologise after he defied an order to do so by Tory chiefs.
The prime minister said she agreed with the Conservative party chairman, Brandon Lewis, that Johnson should say sorry for his remarks, which she acknowledged had caused offence in the Muslim community.

She urged people to be “very careful” about the language they used to discuss sensitive issues such as women wearing the burqa, but stopped short of saying Johnson’s comments were Islamophobic or that he should lose the Tory whip.
Her intervention came as Conservative party chiefs sought to dampen down the Islamophobia row that has re-erupted since Johnson’s remarks in response to Denmark’s introduction of a ban of burqas in public places.
Sidestepping the question of whether the former foreign secretary was Islamophobic, May said: “I have said it’s very clear that anybody who is talking about this needs to think very carefully about the language that they use and the impact that language has had on people, and it is clear that the language that Boris used has offended people.”
May was emphatic that women in the UK ought to be able to choose freely what they wanted to wear. “What is important is do we believe that people have the right to practise their religion, should have the right to choose – in the case of women, and the burqa and the niqab – how they dress,” she said.
“I believe that a woman should have that right. It is absolutely that women should be able to choose how they dress and shouldn’t be told how to do it by other people. And I believe that all of us when we talk about these issues should be very careful about the language that we use.”
May also said: “Some of the terms that Boris used in describing people’s appearance obviously have offended people and so I agree with Brandon Lewis.”
On Tuesday night, Johnson – who is believed to be on holiday in Europe – continued to defy Lewis’s order via Twitter to apologise for his remarks. He is understood to view the instruction as an attempt to shut down debate on a difficult issue that should be tackled head-on.ttttHowever, Johnson faced criticism from both Tory politicians and Muslim groups for his comments, which some claimed were designed to pander to right-wing voters to bolster his future leadership chances. He came under fire recently for meeting Steve Bannon, the former adviser to Donald Trump.
The former Conservative chairman, Sayeeda Warsi, who has accused Johnson of “dog-whistle” Islamophobia, told Sky News on Tuesday: “Boris knew what he was doing when he made those comments, when he chose to use this very specific language he would know the impact and the effect it would have.”
She added: “I think Boris is making yet another leadership bid and he will do and say whatever needs to be done to make that as successful as he can. It’s a tragedy, there are many ways in which he could lay out his leadership bid, but I sincerely hope that he doesn’t continue to use Muslim women as a convenient political football to try and increase his poll ratings.”
In his column for the Telegraph on Monday, Johnson said Muslim women wearing burqas looked like bank robbers and that schools and universities should be entitled to tell students to remove them.
He said it was “absolutely ridiculous” that wearers should “go around looking like letter boxes”, and he would expect his constituents to remove them in his MP’s surgery.
However, Johnson said he did not support a blanket ban on the face veil in the UK. “You risk turning people into martyrs, and you risk a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation, and you may simply make the problem worse,” he wrote.
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