The chancellor, who is of Pakistani Muslim heritage, would only say “we have all got our own type of language” as he was questioned repeatedly by reporters on whether he backed the words in the prime minister’s 2018 article.
Javid also claimed that no one has ever accused the Conservative leadership of Islamophobia despite widespread accusations that Johnson’s Telegraph column represented just that.
During the Tory leadership race in June, Javid said Johnson’s words, which led to a Tory party investigation, were “wrong” and not befitting of a “serious politician”.
But now, serving as Johnson’s most senior cabinet minister, he refused to repeat his criticism on a day where Labour has faced fierce criticism from the chief rabbi over anti-Semitism and the Muslim Council of Britain accused the Tories of “denial, dismissal and deceit” over Islamophobia.
STATEMENT: The Muslim Council of Britain Responds to Chief Rabbi's Comments | 26 November 2019 pic.twitter.com/hr6KypBlw3
— MCB (@MuslimCouncil) November 26, 2019
Asked at an election campaign stop in Bolton whether he would use the same language as the PM, Javid initially said: “(The PM) has explained why he’s used that language in the case that you refer to, and the point of it was to defend the rights of Muslims and others to wear what they like and I think he’s given a perfectly balanced version.”
After a second and third attempt at getting an answer, he said “all politicians will choose their own words and ways to explain the point they are trying to get across.
“We have all got our own type of language.”
Javid then pointed out the PM’s explanation that he was trying to defend the rights of Muslim women to wear what they like, and said articles of that sort need to be read in their “entirety”.
The chancellor then attempted to bat away further attempts to get an answer.
Asked a seventh, final, time if it was fine to say a veiled Muslim woman looked like a letter-box or a bank robber if it was in context, Javid replied: “That’s your interpretation not mine.”
Later, Javid dismissed suggestions that the commitment he secured from Johnson to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory party had been watered down by widening it to include all forms of prejudice.
And responding to the MCB, he said: “We will never, ever as a party tolerate anyone amongst our ranks that has any kind of prejudice towards any group of people, whether it’s based on their race or their religion or their gender, we will never tolerate ti.
“Whenever we have ever come across that kind of behaviour in a tiny, tiny number of cases, because all parties, all grassroots organisations, if someone joins without anyone’s knowledge and they don’t stand for our values then we take vigorous action.
“That said because some members of the Muslim community and others, and I understand this, are saying ‘is there more that you can do in your procedures as a party to root out anti-Muslim hatred’, we want to make sure we are doing everything (we can) be doing, that’s why we have an inquiry into what more we can do and it will start before the end of this year.”
He added: “No one has ever credibly suggested it’s an issue with the leadership of the party, whether that’s the leader of the party of the day or the chancellor, no one has suggested that.”
Earlier, an MCB spokesperson backed chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s criticism of Labour.
The spokesperson added: “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.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.