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    PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, Britain, June 14, 2019

    Boris Johnson Accused of Being ‘Crass’ After He Plays Muslim Great-Grandfather Card in TV Debate

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    Boris Johnson was born in New York and his grandfather was born Osman Kemal in Turkey - the son of a journalist and politician who was assassinated in the 1920s - and came to the UK and changed his name to Wilfred Johnson.

    Boris Johnson has been widely criticised on social media after he used his Turkish great-grandfather to defend himself from claims that he was Islamophobic.

    During a live television debate on Tuesday night, Johnson was challenged about comments he had made about veiled Muslim women looking like “letterboxes.”

    ​The TV debate’s host, Emily Maitlis, asked Johnson: “Do you accept your words have consequences?”

    ​He first apologised: “Yes, insofar as my words have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years when I’ve been a journalist and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them. Of course I’m sorry for the offence that they have caused.”

    But then wheeled out his Muslim great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, who was an official in the Ottoman Empire, fled to Britain but returned after the First World War only to be lynched by a Turkish mob during political chaos.

    ​Johnson said: “When my Muslim great grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world. And if I am prime minister I will ensure that that is the way our country acts and behaves.”

    ​Twitter lit up with comments from people who thought Johnson’s decision to play out a Turkish ancestor was “crass” and did not ameliorate his behaviour.

    Ali Kemal’s son Osman settled in England in the 1920s, changed his name to Wilfred Johnson and had several children, one of whom was Stanley Johnson, a former Tory MEP, who fathered Boris while living in New York.

    ​Johnson got 126 votes in the second round of the Conservative Party leadership contest on Tuesday, 18 June, and took part in the TV debate with the other four contenders - Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid.

    Another round of voting takes place on Wednesday, 19 June, with one of the five set to be ejected.

    Johnson remains the strong favourite to become the next Conservative Party leader and therefore prime minister. 

     

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