Earlier this week Johnson likened women who wear the burka to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in a piece for the Telegraph that appeared to be designed to offend.
The comments have provoked criticism from across the political spectrum, including reprimands from the Prime Minister and from Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis, but a Red Roar investigation can reveal that Johnson’s comments have triggered an outpouring of Islamophobic comments in Conservative Facebook groups.
A post in UK Conservatives Online, reported by the BBC to be the largest pro-Tory group on Facebook with 10,000 members, said “Boris – I’m still laughing – it’s what most of us are thinking”. Tory supporters in in the Conservative Politics Society group, which changed its name from Conservative Debating Forum after the Red Roar revealed that it regularly hosted Islamophobic content, gleefully repeated Johnson’s “letterbox” and “bank robber” jibes, as well as calling for the burka to be banned. Members of both groups competed to invent new insults, calling the burka a “bin bag” and a “silly rag”.
But Johnson’s remarks were also an excuse for members of these groups to express much more extreme Islamophobia. In Conservatives Online members said “there is no such thing as Islamophobia”, referred to London as “an Islamic cesspit since Sadiq Khan” and one demanded “kick all Muslims out of our country” adding “got to love Boris”.
In Conservative Politics Society, one member ranted that “it has nothing to do with religion – it’s all about male sexual incontinence amongst Muslim men – hence the gang rapes when they get to civilised countries”. A number of members commented that Islam was “destroying our culture and country”.
Just one person appeared to have been banned from one of the groups, but for saying that Johnson should resign because his article was “offensive and wrong”.
Johnson’s article appeared to have exploited fault lines inside the Conservative Party, with many members attacking Theresa May for daring to criticise her former Foreign Secretary. May was accused of “pandering to the Muslim pressure group”, others said “the Prime Minister looks pathetic, just as she does with regard to Brexit”. The comments often descended into misogyny, with one saying of May “the silly bitch needs covering up” while a member of the more extreme True Blue Tories group called her an “utter slag” for “kneeling in a Mosque” and accused her of “Islamic ass licking appeasement”.
It is another worrying sign that Johnson may be applying the playbook of Steve Bannon, the controversial Trump strategist he met recently who has previously claimed “wear the racism as a badge of honour … when they go to racism, you know you’re winning”.