UK′s ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson′s Muslim burqa comments sparks Conservative Party probe | News | DW | 09.08.2018
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UK's ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson's Muslim burqa comments sparks Conservative Party probe

The former London mayor and UK foreign minister returned to his old job as a newspaper columnist and provoked an outcry with controversial comments about how some Muslim women dress. His party says it will investigate.

Complaints about Boris Johnson's article in the Daily Telegraph have led to his Conservative Party to announce an independent investigation into a possible breach of the party's code of conduct.

As a paid columnist for the conservative-leaning newspaper, Johnson wrote on Sunday that the Muslim burqa was oppressive, ridiculous and made women look like letter boxes and bank robbers. The article caused heated debates on social media.

If the independent panel finds him culpable, Johnson faces suspension of his membership or expulsion from the party.

Theresa May weighs in

Following the article's publication, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with critics that Johnson should apologize for his comments.

"I think Boris Johnson used language in describing people's appearance that has obviously caused offence," she said. "It was the wrong language to use, he should not have used it."

On Thursday, the article was still front-page news in some British publications, with the left-leaning Daily Mirror suggesting the government was at war as "15 top Tories" condemned Johnson's "burka insult as one says it risks 'a race war.'"

Far-right linkage?

Others have suggested Johnson could be positioning himself as a candidate attractive to anti-immigrant, right-wing, anti-European voters who have previously voted for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), noting his contact with Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to US President Donald Trump.

Fellow pro-Brexit Conservative party lawmakers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove have also met with Bannon, who recently announced plans to set up a foundation in Europe to back far-right movements on the continent.

Potential party leader

Johnson himself is believed to be in Europe on vacation. He resigned in July over the government's Brexit plans and has long been seen as a candidate to lead the party after Theresa May. 

Former UKIP leader and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said he thought Johnson's comments made him more, not less likely to be the next Conservative party leader.

Interviewed in the Daily Telegraph in July, Bannon appeared to be of a similar opinion: "Now is the moment. If Boris Johnson looks at this … There comes an inflection point, the Chequers deal was an inflection point, we will have to see what happens."

jm/amp (Reuters, AP)

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