United Kingdom finance minister Sajid Javid has refused to criticise Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his descriptions of Muslim women.
Speaking on the campaign trail, Javid struggled to explain Johnson’s choice of words like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” to describe Muslim women wearing a veil, which he used in his column for The Telegraph newspaper last year.
It followed criticism of the Conservatives by the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the party of “denial, dismissal and deceit” with regards to Islamophobia on the day that the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism made him unfit to be prime minister.
In response to the Chief Rabbi’s comments, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia. This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party, who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit.
“It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerate Islamophobia, allow it to fester in society and fail to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism. It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism.”
In an exchange with reporters, Javid said the prime minister had “explained why he’s used that language” adding the article “was to defend the rights of women, whether Muslim women and others to wear what they like, so he’s explained that and I think he’s given a perfectly valid explanation.”
He added: “Whenever this issue has come about (for) the Conservative Party, no one has ever credibly suggested that it’s an issue with the leadership of the party, whether that’s the leader of the party of the day or the chancellor or other senior figures, no one’s suggested that.”
But in one example, in the House of Commons just two months ago, Javid was sat next to Johnson as Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, MP for Slough, slammed the Conservative Party’s leadership for its use of “derogatory and racist” rhetoric.
“For those of us who have had to endure and face up to being called names such as ‘towel head’ or ‘Taliban’ or ‘coming from Bongo Bongo Land’, we can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as bank robbers and letterboxes,” Singh Dhesi told Parliament.
“Rather than hide behind sham and whitewashed investigations, when will the prime minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks which have led to a spike in hate crime and given the increasing prevalence of such incidents in his party? When will the prime minister finally order an inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, something which he and his chancellor promised on national television?”
Johnson on Tuesday dismissed the Muslim Council of Britain’s criticism, telling reporters that he did not agree with the claim that his party had approached Islamophobia with “denial, dismissal and deceit”.
He added: “What we do in the Tory Party is when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group then they’re out first bounce,” he said.
Johnson said his party would hold an inquiry into “all forms of prejudice” starting before the end of the year, despite his previous pledge to hold one specifically on Islamophobia.
Corbyn called on the Conservatives to “address the issues of Islamophobia that appear to be a problem within their party”.
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