Fighting and threats divide the Tories over Boris Johnson remarks

Boris Johnson Conservative burka

“He needs to accept that if he wants to run for leadership he needs to lead by example

Boris Johnson, the former British foreign secretary, was accused of "pandering to the far right" on Monday after comparing women who wear the niqab to bank robbers and letter boxes even as the Conservative Party faced fresh calls to investigate Islamophobia in its ranks.

Johnson, who resigned last month over the Chequers Brexit deal, prompting an outcry from other politicians and Muslim groups with his comments.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis called on him to say sorry after a flurry of criticism, supported by the Prime Minister.

She said: "I also know that many other people believe strongly that in the whole of the article, what Mr Johnson appears to have been attempting to do was to say that there shouldn't be a ban and that he was engaging in a legitimate debate".

A spokesman for the party declined to confirm the investigation.

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Warsi responded in The Guardian, saying Johnson had used rightwing, "alt-right" language in criticising the appearance of the burqa, which contributes to a view that "Muslim women are fair game".

The former minister Anna Soubry added: "Many One Nation Tories would not stay in the Conservative Party should Boris Johnson become leader".

We, the undersigned, write to you as British Muslim women who wear the niqab or burqa.

David Lammy, a Labour member of parliament, described Johnson as a "pound-shop Donald Trump" who was "fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his own grubby electoral ambitions".

It said Islamophobia was "heavily gendered" with white men carrying out nearly three quarters of verified incidents past year, while Muslim women made up more than half of victims.

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Critics say burqas and similar face coverings pose a security risk and are a tool to control women.

"It's ridiculous these views are being attacked - we mustn't fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on hard issues", the source said.

Amid calls to apologise for his remarks, a former USA diplomat, and foreign policy adviser, Jim Jatras, has claimed President Donald Trump would spark similar fury if he made similar remarks.

After quitting his cabinet post, the flamboyant former mayor of London took up his pen again as a paid opinion writer for the Daily Telegraph. "Such crass commentary should have no place in our political discourse".

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