Splits deepen over British ex-minister Johnson’s burqa comments

THAME, England (Reuters) – Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson returned from his summer holiday to face both criticism and support over his remarks about burqas, amid deepening divisions in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson walks to Downing Street in London, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Johnson, seen as the biggest threat to Prime Minister Theresa May’s struggling leadership, has become a lightning rod for discontent within the party after a newspaper column in which he said Muslim women who wear burqas look like letter boxes or bank robbers.

The comments came in a Aug. 5 piece arguing against a ban on the Islamic full-face veil, but have been criticised as Islamophobic. Others saw the remarks as colourful rhetoric that strikes a chord with many Britons.

May has scolded Johnson, stirring anger amongst those of his supporters who see him as the focal point for resistance to her proposed “business-friendly” Brexit plan. The party has also launched an investigation into his remarks.

Under the headline “Boris sparks cabinet war” the Sunday Times said four unnamed senior ministers were dismayed at May’s handling of the situation.

“They have managed to engineer a total disaster,” one minister was quoted as saying. “Trying to silence Boris is stupid, especially when the majority of people agree with him.”

Johnson spent Sunday at his residence in

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