- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to criticism of his own controversial comments about Islam by saying that “people are always going to drag out bits and pieces that I have written over the years.”
- The BBC’s Andrew Marr read out Johnson’s newly unearthed comments from a 2005 column on Sunday, and asked him “Do you stand by that?”
- Johnson, who has been reported for previous comments about Muslims, had written in the aftermath of 2005 London bombings that Islamophobia a “natural reaction” to Islam and that “Islam is the problem.”
- Johnson said he is known for “campaigning against prejudice of all kinds” and that the party is “ruthless” in dismissing members who are found to be prejudiced when he asked about party members who have been allowed to stay in the Conservatives despite sharing controversial comments about Islam.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed criticism of him calling Islamophobia a “natural reaction” to Islam in a 2005 column by saying people want to “drag out bits and pieces of what I have said over the years.”
Boris’ newly discovered comments were unearthed by Business Insider after the Conservatives were accused by Muslim leaders in the UK for letting Islamophobia to “fester” within its ranks.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Marr read out Johnson’s comments from his column in The Spectator, which included Johnson writing “the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem.”
Johnson had also questioned the loyalty of British Muslims in light of the 7/7 bombings in July 2005, which killed 52 people.
Marr presented the writings as the views of a “prominent Conservative,” and Johnson shook his head and waved his hands as his comments were being read out.
“Do you stand by that?” Marr asked.
Johnson replied: “Look. People are always going to drag out bits and pieces that I have written over the years in order to distract from the fundamental issues at this election.”
Johnson claimed to have a record for “campaigning against prejudice of all kinds – indeed I am proud to say that my great grandfather knew the Koran off by heart.”
Marr had also pointed to members of the Conservative Party that have shared similar views who are still within the party, including former Johnson advisor Anthony Browne who wrote that Muslims have “divided loyalties.”
Johnson said that “There is an independent process which needs to consider all such accusations of prejudice of any kind and we are ruthless about that. And if people are convicted, they they’re out.”
Marr replied: “Well it hasn’t happened much, has it.”
Johnson previously dropped an inquiry into Islamophobia in the party, instead pursuing a general prejudice inquiry. He said on Sunday that the Conservatives are “also having a general inquiry into prejudice of all kinds within the conservative party.”
Boris Johnson was last year reported to the Equalities Commission after he compared Muslim women who wear burqas to “letter boxes” and bank robbers.
Former Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi told Business Insider last year that Islamophobia goes “right up to the top” of the Conservative party.
Johnson also appeared to suggest that he might agree to be interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, which Johnson has not committed to doing though every other party leader has done or agreed to.
The BBC faced criticism for doing a u-turn and allowing Johnson to appear on the The Andrew Marr Show without having agreed to be interviewed by Neil, something it previously said it would not allow.
Marr asked Johnson: “Why are you avoiding being interviewed by Andrew Neil?”
Johnson responded by flattering Marr, saying, “Because I think we’ve got a perfectly brilliant Andrew right here.”
Marr pointed out that the two shows have different audiences, and that Neil’s show is broadcast in the evening. “Everyone else has done it, why won’t you? he asked.
“I am perfectly happy to be interviewed by any interviewer called Andrew from the BBC,” Johnson then said.