Boris Johnson’s father has said people should be “grateful” to the former foreign secretary for putting the issue of banning the burka “on the table”.
His son was criticised after writing that Muslim women who wear face veils looked like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.
But Stanley Johnson told Sky News that much of the criticism was “synthetic indignation” that had been “whipped up” by his opponents.
The debate needed to move on from “letterboxes and so on and so forth”, Mr Johnson added, because the “real issue” was whether it was “appropriate to restrict the use of the burka or the niqab in certain circumstances”.
“I think we should all be grateful to Boris because he’s put this issue on the table,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s a matter of common sense. It seems to me, [that] if you’re a doctor or a nurse, or a school teacher, if you’re a female airline pilot for heaven’s sake, there must be restrictions, and it seems to me absolutely right that we should use this occasion and look again at where we stand on this issue.”
Asked whether he understood why his son’s choice of language had caused offence, he said: “I don’t really believe this.
“I mean, I’ve seen a lot of synthetic indignation, I’ve seen a lot of politicians who might be opposed to Boris for other reasons, like you know they’re Labour as opposed to Conservatives, or Remainers as opposed to Brexit, whipping it all up.”
Mr Johnson also said his son’s article “didn’t go far enough”, adding: “I would have preferred Boris to say, look, the moment has come for a very serious debate about this.”
Referring to an inquiry into his son’s remarks, the former Conservative MEP said the “hierarchy of the Tory party” had “collectively lost its senses” by launching a preliminary investigation into the former foreign secretary, describing the process as a “kangaroo court”.
His comments echo criticisms made by Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, who told Sky News the disciplinary process was “unfair” because both party chairman Brandon Lewis and Prime Minister Theresa May had criticised Mr Johnson before the investigation was launched.
Mr Rees-Mogg went on to suggest the process was a bungled attempt to undermine Boris Johnson’s future leadership ambitions.
But writing in The Mail on Sunday, Theresa May’s former de-facto deputy, Damian Green, defended the approach the party had taken.
“While I disagree that it amounted to a breach of party rules – it was an MP commenting on a current political issue, and if we can’t do that, what are we for? – it was right for party chairman Brandon Lewis to ask for an apology,” Mr Green wrote.
“At least Boris was right to also say in his column that banning the burka would be wrong. It is un-British to start telling women what they can and can’t wear.”
The former first secretary of state also warned Boris Johnson against pursuing what he described as the “populist option”.
“I am particularly concerned by reports that President Trump’s sacked adviser Steve Bannon is forming a Europe-wide far-right campaign group and has been in touch with Boris,” he said.
“My fear now is that Boris is being turned into a martyr by the alt-right.”
He added: “Some commentators have urged him to go ‘the full Trump’.
“They want him to be the frontman for this type of politics, shooting from the hip and always choosing the populist option.
“This would be a disaster, for him and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives must never give the impression we exclude any group of British citizens”.
On Saturday, a former aide to David Cameron, Lord Andrew Cooper, accused Mr Johnson of “casual racism” and the “courting of fascism”, while the Muslim Council of Britain said the fact that some Conservative MPs did not believe there was a need for Mr Johnson to make an apology had “shone a light on the underbelly of Islamophobia” within the party.
That view was echoed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who wrote in the Sunday Mirror: “Johnson’s remarks and support form acolytes such as Andrew Bridgen, Nadine Dorries and Ben Bradley prove that intolerant opinion has a strong hold to this day in the Tory party.”
Boris Johnson has yet to issue a formal response to the controversy, but a source close to the former foreign secretary has insisted he has no intention of apologising for the language used.
The source also suggested Mr Johnson had received private messages of support from a number of “senior Tory figures”, although it was unclear whether they included any members of the cabinet.
Mr Johnson was seen arriving back at his Oxfordshire home on Saturday evening. His next column is expected to be published in The Daily Telegraph on Sunday evening.
Asked whether he thought the former foreign secretary would return to the issue of the burka, his father Stanley said: “I very much doubt if his column is going to focus on the burka.
“It’s time we moved on from the burka to wider issues. I mean he might go down the road of Sharia courts, for example.
“I personally am very keen that we get a grip on the whole halal question.”