LONDON – British Prime Minister Borish Johson says he obviously feels sorry for his offensive remarks about Islam.
He stated this when interviewed during the Independent Investigation tasked with scrutinising how the Conservative Party dealt with allegations of discrimination including complaints of Islamophobia and whether its policies and processes to deal with complaints of discrimination were fit for purpose.
The investigation report was conducted by Professor Swaran Singh, who has served as a Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The report cited various examples of discrimination-related incidents, including Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s offensive column published in 2018 in which he said that Muslim women in burqas are “going around looking like letterboxes” and likened their appearance to bank robbers.
The comments gave an impression to many that the Conservative Party and its leadership are insensitive to Muslim communities.
In the article, he also said that “to any non-Muslim reader of the Quran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction”, and referred to some black people as having “watermelon smiles”.
In his response to the investigators said, Johnson said that he had written “millions of words as a journalist” and that sometimes “snapshots from articles” had been taken out of context.
He said that he had studied the Quran and did not believe that Islam or Muslims in Britain posed a threat to the nation.
He stated that his article comparing women wearing the Burqa to letterboxes was a liberal defence of a Muslim woman’s right to choose what she wore.
“My writings are often parodic, satirical….It (the Telegraph article) was an honest defence for a woman’s right to wear what she chooses.”
When panel offered the Prime Minister an opportunity to apologise for his past remarks, he said: “I do know that offence has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely. I am obviously sorry for any offence taken.
Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am Prime Minister, I would not.”
The Prime Minister believed that the Party had to make it understood at all levels that racism and discrimination were not tolerated. He said there should be more women in Cabinet and more minorities in government at all levels, the report said.