Ruth Davidson backs calls for Johnson burka apology

8 August 2018, 14:54

Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservative leader

Ruth Davidson has backed calls for Boris Johnson to apologise over his "gratuitously offensive" comments on the burka.

The Scottish Conservative leader said she believes the former foreign secretary should say sorry for comparing women wearing face-covering veils to bank robbers and letter boxes.

Ms Davidson is the latest senior Tory to condemn Mr Johnson for the remarks after Prime Minister Theresa May also urged him to apologise.

She was speaking during an "in conversation" event with former Liberal leader Lord Steel at the Fringe by the Sea in North Berwick, East Lothian, and described the comments as "poor form".

Ms Davidson said that while she agrees with the sentiment of the newspaper article in which Mr Johnson made the comments - that face-covering veils should not be banned - his remarks were offensive.

"I think it's also not been shown through history that when men make sweeping statements about what women should or shouldn't wear that it goes well for them," she said.

"I think that this wasn't an off-the-cuff slip, he wrote a column, he knew exactly what he was doing and I think it crossed from being provocative and starting a debate and actually it became rude and gratuitous."

She added of his comments: "I think he should apologise for them.

"It doesn't bode well, and we've seen it in the arguments and the debate over anti-Semitism in Labour, of how we've got to a point in 2018 where we're supposed to be so much better at accepting and discussing and being open about different faiths, religions, backgrounds, social classes, all of these things, and actually we've become slightly even more siloed and treating them differently.

"If you use the analogy of Christianity, would you ever write in the Telegraph that you should have a debate about banning Christians from wearing crucifixes?

"It's the same argument but it's in a different faith so why are the parameters different for one faith and not the other?

"That's where I think you start getting these questions of what constitutes anti-Semitism, what constitutes Islamophobia, and if you have that comparator in your mind then that perhaps is a better guidance for not what you should or shouldn't say, but how you frame the debate.

"I agree with the point of his piece which was you shouldn't ban the burka, the niqab, the hijab - I don't think we should ban it - but what he said was a gratuitously offensive way of saying it."