Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been condemned after writing an inflammatory article in which he likened women wearing the burqa to “looking like letter boxes.”
Following the Telegraph article, Johnson came under fire from the Muslim Council of Britain and numerous MPs who called for him to apologise and an inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.
Johnson wrote: ”If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. If you tell me that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for it in the Koran. I would go further and say it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
In the article Johnson used the phrase “these odd bits of headgear” when referring to the burqa or niqab, and likened Muslim women wearing it to looking ”like a bank robber.” He wrote: ”If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled – like Jack Straw – to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly.”
In response, the Muslim Council of Britain called his comments ”particularly regrettable in this current climate, where Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is becoming worryingly pervasive with disappointingly little action from this current government.”
The MCB said Johnson had denigrated “the minority of women who choose to wear it,” using ”language that would not be used about other faiths.” They also called for ”an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party,” claiming that ”such crass commentary should have no place in our political discourse.”
Criticism has also come from the Labour party who have urged Johnson to apologise. Labour MP Jess Phillips said she will be reporting Johnson to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with Labour’s shadow equalities minister, Naz Shah, calling Johnson’s comments a ”calculated attack.” She said that “Boris Johnson’s latest racist insults cannot be laughed off, like they often are… Theresa May must condemn this blatant Islamophobia and Boris Johnson must apologise.”
Tottenham MP David Lammy also issued a tweet attacking Johnson’s comments, stating ”Muslim women are having their burkas pulled off by thugs in our streets & Boris Johnson’s response is to mock them for looking like letter boxes. Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions.”
There has been no Conservative response to the criticism as of yet.