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Thursday Mar 12 2020
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Boris Johnson refuses to apologise over remarks about Muslim women, Islamophobia

British prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: File

LONDON : British prime minister Boris Johnson once again refused to apologise over his derogatory and offensive remarks about Muslim women as well as the increasing incidents of Islamophobia in his party.

The issues were raised by leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn and member of Parliament from Bradford West Naz Shah during the weekly question hour demanding an apology from Johnson.

Corbyn was referring to the remarks passed by Boris Johnson in 2018 in an article published in The Telegraph newspaper where he compared burqa wearing Muslim women with “Bank Robbers” and “Letterbox”.

Corbyn also criticised Johnson for his overall attitude towards women and reminded him of making offensive remarks not only against Muslim women but also against single mothers and their children and working women too.

“The prime minister has made repeated offensive remarks against single mothers and their children. Yes, he described them as ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate,” said the Labour leader.

Corbyn also reminded Johnson about his remarks against Muslim women saying that they look like “bank robbers” and also against working women when he [Boris] suggested that the best way of dealing with advice from a female colleague is to “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.”

Criticising the government’s policies on rape clause and dismantling local services which have created an atmosphere of discrimination towards women particularly Black, Asian and the disabled.

“Words have consequences, and the prime minister’s offensive words are backed up with offensive and discriminatory policies”, added Corbyn.

“Will the prime minister apologise for his offensive comments, and ensure that those discriminatory policies are reversed by his government?” demanded Corbyn.

But in response Johnson completely ditched the original question put forward by the opposition leader. Instead, he raised the allegations of antisemitism in Labour Party.

Johnson told the house that his party is in fact proud of promoting rights of women, both the female prime ministers were from conservative party and on the other hand Labour didn’t even had female party leader.

“I am proud that we have a record number of female MPs in our party today. I am proud that this is the only party that has produced not one, but two female premiers. Wouldn’t it be an extraordinary and amazing thing if the Labour party were to produce a female leader of its own?" said Johnson.

He said that he refuses to take any lessons on sexism from a party where female MPs are bullied.

Naz Shah, member of Parliament from Bradford West, also criticised the ruling Conservative party’s approach towards incidents of Islamophobia within the party. The shadow minister for women and equalities asked the prime minister to stop hiding behind the robe of his ancestors being Muslim. She further added that the prime minister was clinging to a fig leaf that one of his cabinet member, chancellor Sajid Javed now ex, was a Muslim of Pakistani origin.

Naz Shah labeled the prime minister of reference to antisemitism in Labour Party as resorting to potentially divisive, tit for tat deflection of a very serious issue.

Referring to a short film The Long Goodbye released by Emmy award-winning actor Riz Ahmed last week depicting the heartbreak of many British minorities who feel unwanted in Britain, where hate crime is rising and hate speech infects public life, Shah urged fellow MPs to listen and watch it as many of Muslims in her constituency have shared the same concerns with her too.

“Will the prime minister, given that 300 complaints of Islamophobia in his party, simply tell me what he is doing to assure Britain’s Muslims that their premier is not an Islamophobe and takes their concerns seriously?” demanded Shah.

But again rather than answering the question on rising cases of Islamophobia in the party and what action will he take to address these incidents the prime minister accused the opposition of not doing enough to tackle these issue within their party.

“I can reassure the honorary member that there is absolutely no room for hatred or racism in this party — in our Conservative party — and I wish I could say the same of her own party,” said Boris Johnson.

Corbyn also said that without funding, the Domestic Abuse Bill will simply be a piece of paper.

“There has to be funding to ensure that those who are victims of domestic violence get the support they need in the centres they need, which are underfunded by this government,” added Corbyn.