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Friday, 10 August 2018

Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson wades into UK burka row as he urges the ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson NOT to say sorry for saying burka wearers look like letterboxes

  • Mr Johnson is facing an investigation after saying burkas look like 'letterboxes' 
  • But Atkinson said it was 'pointless' for the former Foreign Secretary to apologise 
  • Blackadder star Atkinson, 63, said 'you should only apologise for a bad joke' 
Rowan Atkinson has defended Boris Johnson over his comments on women wearing burkas and said the former Foreign Secretary's remarks were funny. 
Mr Johnson is facing an investigation and could be disciplined by Conservativeparty bosses after saying women in burkas looked like 'letterboxes' and 'bank robbers'. 
Atkinson, 63, said: 'As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson's joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one.'
The actor, known for his comedy performances in Blackadder and Mr Bean, wrote in a letter to the Times: 'All jokes about religion cause offence, so it's pointless apologising for them. 
'You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required.' 
Boris Johnson (pictured) is facing an investigation and could be disciplined by Conservative party bossesRowan Atkinson has defended Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (left) is facing an investigation and could be disciplined by Conservative party bosses but actor Rowan Atkinson (right) has come to his defence 
Atkinson has previously argued in favour of a 'right to offend', saying in 2004 that proposed religious hatred laws would silence 'creative thinkers'. 
He said at the time: 'Freedom of expression must be protected for artists and entertainers and we must not accept a bar on the lampooning of religion and religious leaders.' 
Mr Johnson is to face an investigation by an independent panel after complaints that his comments breached the Conservative Party's code of conduct.
Tory sources have insisted the party was left with no choice but to launch the probe because it was triggered automatically after they received a flurry of complaints.  
But the move has sparked a furious backlash from Mr Johnson's allies who have accused No10 of trying to 'destroy' the ex minister because they see him as a threat. 
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: 'I believe this is politically motivated, by the internal politics of the Tory party, by politicians who want to humiliate and destroy Boris Johnson.' 
Demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association in Mr Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency protest the former Foreign Secretary's remarks on Thursday
Demonstrators outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association in Mr Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency protest the former Foreign Secretary's remarks on Thursday

What is the Tory disciplinary panel and what punishments could it give Boris?

The Tory party launched its new  stricter code of conduct in 2017 in the wake of the Westminster sex pest scandal.
Under the rules, any member who is accused of flouting the code of conduct could face a grilling by a disciplinary panel.
Here is the process which faces Boris Johnson: 
  1. A panel consisting of no fewer than three people, is appointed by the Party Chairman Brandon Lewis. 
  2. The panel will include a Tory activist, an independent person and someone nominated by the chairman of the 1922 committee - the powerful body of backbench Conservatives.
  3. This panel will investigate the complaint and give their findings to Mr Lewis. 
  4. If they find Mr Johnson has broken party rules then they will refer him to Theresa May and the Board of the Tory party, who decide what punishment to mete out.
  5. They can order a range of punishments - including kicking him out of the party. 
How does the party decide what punishment to give out?
It is up to the PM and the board of the Conservative Party to decide what punishment to give out.
The code of conduct states they have discretion to 'take such action as they see fit. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, suspension of membership or expulsion from the Party.'
But it suggests that only the most serious cases will be  result in the member being kicked out of the party.
The code states: 'Any removal of rights of membership will only be made after due considerations of natural justice.'  
He added: 'I believe that the public will see this for what it is – an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat.' 
Mr Bridgen said he was shocked an investigation had been triggered as other Tory MPs have criticised the head veils before but not faced probes over it.
He said: 'I'm surprised that an investigation is going to be instigated into Boris' article and his refusal to apologise, especially given Ken Clarke in 2013 described burqas as peculiar.
'I don't remember any outcry or calls for an investigation into Ken Clarke's alleged Islamophobia.'
Meanwhile former Tory former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said Mr Johnson had used 'colourful' language but had not committed an offence.
Mr Mitchell, who was chief whip in 2012, told BBC Two's Newsnight: 'I don't think he should apologise.
'But I think what's important is that the procedures of the party now take place.
'This is quite an important issue about free speech and it's got nothing to do with the dreadful events that take place over Enoch Powell and the Rivers of Blood speech.
'Boris was speaking out against a ban of the type that's taken place in Denmark and some other countries.' 
Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis has decided to stand down from his role in selecting the panel if the investigation gets that far as he has already publicly condemned Mr Johnson over the remark. 
Several Tory Brexiteers have rallied to his defence and said Mr Johnson is only expressing the views of people across the country and should not be muzzled. 
And senior British Imam Taj Hargey, from the Oxford Islamic Congregation, today defended the ex minister, who he said 'did not go far enough' because the burqa has 'no Koranic legitimacy' and should be banned in Britain.
And he said that the former Cabinet minister must 'not apologise for telling the truth' about the burka because it is 'un-Muslim' and a 'hideous tribal ninja-like garment'. 
And Mr Johnson is facing another political storm after a parliamentary watchdog wrote to wrap him for breaking rules by taking up the £275,000-a-year job as a Daily Telegraph columnist.
Protesters outside Boris Johnson's London constituency office called for his suspension
Protesters outside Boris Johnson's London constituency office called for his suspension
A protester outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association protests Mr Johnson's comments
A protester outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association protests Mr Johnson's comments
People hold up megaphones and placards during the protest in Mr Johnson's constituency 
People hold up megaphones and placards during the protest in Mr Johnson's constituency 

Senior British Imam backs Boris Johnson in burqa row 

Imam Taj Hargey has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row
Imam Taj Hargey has backed Boris Johnson in the ongoing burka row
A senior British Imam today backed Boris Johnson in the burqa row and said the oppressive face coverings should be banned.
Imam Taj Hargey, from the Oxford Islamic Congregation said the Tory MP has nothing to apologise for and 'did not go far enough' in his remarks.
He branded the burqa a 'hideous tribal ninja-like garment' and said its has 'no Koranic legitimacy'. 
Mr Hargey warned that the burqa has become trendy among more militants Islamists who peddle views which can be a gateway for religious extremism. 
Writing in The Times, he said: 'Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth.'
He said the ex minister had reminded the country that the face mask 'has no Koranic legitimacy' but is 'a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam'.
He added: 'The burqa and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim.'  
He said that some backward-looking elements in the Muslim community have managed to persuade may in British society that it is in the Islamic faith for women to cover their faces. 
He said: 'Johnson did not go far enough. If Britain is to become a fully integrated society then it is incumbent that cultural practices, personal preferences and communal customs that aggravate social division should be firmly resisted.
'For this reason Britain must emulate France, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria and Denmark in banning the burqa.' 
Under the ministerial code, ex ministers must apply to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) and wait three months before they can take up a new job.
Under the Tory Party investigation announced today, Mr Johnson could be suspended or even expelled from the party.
Under Conservative rules, the party can investigate any member who is accused of beaching their code of conduct, which was unveiled late last year in the wake of the Westminster sex pest scandal.
This sets out how members of the Conservative party are expected to behave - including showing a commitment to 'support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion'.
A Conservative party spokesman said: 'The code of conduct process is strictly confidential.'  
Meanwhile, Met Police Commissioner Ms Dick, made it clear Mr Johnson has not broken any laws.
She said: 'I know that many people have found this offensive.
'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.'
Asked what she made of the language the former foreign secretary used, Ms Dick told the BBC Asian Network: 'Some people have clearly found it offensive.
'I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence.
'He did not commit a criminal offence.'  
Nadine Dorries, a backbench Tory MP, said the backlash showed Mr Johnson's rivals were terrified of him challenging the Prime Minister.
She told TalkRadio: 'People who are outraged – who are utterly terrified – know that at some stage, any day soon, Boris may make a challenge for the leadership and the position in No 10. Yes, some people were offended but they are not people who would vote for Boris or ever vote Conservative anyway.'
The first opinion poll on the row showed backing for Mr Johnson.
According to the survey by Sky Data, 60 per cent believe it was not racist to compare Muslim women wearing burqas to bank robbers or letter boxes, while 33 per cent said it was.
Forty-eight per cent thought Mr Johnson should not apologise for his remarks, compared with 45 per cent who thought he should. 
The Conservative chairman tweeted out a message of solidarity with those who have called for Mr Johnson to apologise├é 
The Conservative chairman tweeted out a message of solidarity with those who have called for Mr Johnson to apologise 
Mr Johnson's column came amid protests in Denmark (pictured) which has introduced a ban on face coverings 
Mr Johnson's column came amid protests in Denmark (pictured) which has introduced a ban on face coverings 
Denmark's new face veil ban is likely to apply to the niqab and burqa - not the hijab and chador
Denmark's new face veil ban is likely to apply to the niqab and burqa - not the hijab and chador

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