Chancellor Sajid Javid has repeatedly refused to say whether he would echo Boris Johnson’s description of veiled Muslim women as “letterboxes”.
He dodged the question after reiterating the Tories’ pledge to hold an inquiry into anti-Muslim hatred within the Conservative Party – to begin before the end of this year.
Mr Javid told a general election campaign event in Manchester: “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can be doing and that’s why we will have an inquiry into what more we can do in terms of procedures and processes.”
The chancellor then claimed “no one has ever credibly suggested” that Islamophobia was “an issue with the leadership of the party – whether that’s the leader of the party… or the chancellor or other senior figures”.
He suggested this was “one of the big differences” between allegations of Islamophobia faced by the Tories and antisemitism claims against Labour.
Mr Javid referred to a “devastating” newspaper article written by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who asked whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is “unfit” to be prime minister.
However, the chancellor’s comments prompted immediate questions as to whether he would repeat the prime minister’s description of veiled women.
Mr Johnson made the remarks, in which he also compared burka-wearing women to “looking like a bank robber”, in a much-criticised Daily Telegraph column last year, before he became prime minister.
He was cleared of breaking the Conservative Party’s code of conduct but accused of “pandering to the far-right” by Muslim groups.
Monitoring group Tell Mama estimated anti-Muslim incidents increased by 375% – from eight incidents to 38 – in the week following Mr Johnson’s article.
Asked on Tuesday if he would use Mr Johnson’s remarks himself, Mr Javid said: “All politicians will choose their own words and ways to explain whatever is the point they’re trying to get across.
“We’ve all got our own type of language.”
In exchanges with reporters, Mr Javid refused to say explicitly whether he would or wouldn’t use the same language as Mr Johnson to describe veiled Muslim women, despite being asked more than six times.
Earlier, the Muslim Council of Britain accused the Conservative Party of acting with “denial, dismissal and deceit” over allegations of Islamophobia, in the wake of the chief rabbi’s intervention over antisemitism.
A spokesperson said: “Muslims are a diverse community and realise different Muslims will make up their own minds on who to vote for.
“But the way that the chief rabbi had shared his experiences and insights, has highlighted the importance of speaking out on the racism we face, whilst maintaining our non-partisan stance.
“As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia.
“This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit.
“It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerate Islamophobia, allow it to fester in society, and fail to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism.
“It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism.
“British Muslims – whilst from the most disadvantaged communities and rarely allowed a voice in the public space – will listen to the chief rabbi and agree on the importance of voting with their conscience.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We celebrate and value the contribution Muslims have made and continue to make to our great country. We actively support freedom of worship and the role of faith in public life.
“Our manifesto has committed to ensuring everyone’s rights are respected and everyone is treated with fairness and dignity.
“The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind.
“That’s why we are already establishing the terms of an investigation to make sure that such instances are isolated and robust processes are in place to stamp them out as and when they occur.”
In his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, Mr Johnson said he found veils worn by some Muslim women “oppressive” and added it was “weird” and “bullying” to “expect women to cover their faces”.
But he warned against copying other European countries and banning full-face veils in the UK.
Mr Johnson has since declined to apologise for his comments, stating he would never be afraid to shake “plaster off the ceiling” by “speaking directly”.
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