UK PM says Boris Johnson should apologise over burqa comments

Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth Brandon Lewis arrives at Downing Street in London

Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth Brandon Lewis arrives at Downing Street in London

Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for saying that women wearing burkas look like letter boxes.

Mr Johnson said he opposed banning burkas and other face-covering garments, but wrote that it was, "absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes".

Calling Mr Johnson's comments "offensive and deliberately provocative, but very clever politics", she said debates about the burka must be "serious" rather than attention-seeking remarks the resonate with certain Tories.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt this morning told the BBC: "I would never have made such a comment - I think there's a degree of offence in that".

"Clearly the Tory party has an issue with Islamophobia, but over 24 hours later the prime minister is still yet to say a word", she added.

The shadow minister for women and equalities said his remarks would be "seized on by the far right" and told how she was appalled by "this kind of ugly and naked Islamophobia".

But a source close to Mr Johnson made clear he would not retract his comments.

Several European countries, including France, Belgium and Denmark, have banned face-covering veils in public, but none of Britain's main political parties supports such a restriction.

Tory peer Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, a former party chair and diplomat, accused Johnson of adopting the "dog-whistle" tactics of right-wing firebrand Steve Bannon, US President Donald Trump's former top aide.

Ms Shah suggested if no action was taken against Mr Johnson, Muslims would not have faith in Tory pledges to stamp out Islamophobia. "I wish he hadn't accompanied it with a comment that I certainly wouldn't make and I think many people would find offensive, yes".

The same piece said the city had made scapegoats of the police in the Hillsborough disaster while refusing to acknowledge the part played by "drunken" fans "mindlessly" trying to fight their way in - comments which caused outrage in the city.

The resignation solidified Johnson's position as a leader of the pro-Brexit wing of the Conservative Party, which is deeply divided over its attitude to the EU.

He said a total ban on face-covering veils would give a boost to radicals who said there was a "clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West and could lead to "a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation".

More seriously, he faced calls to resign last November amid claims his loose comments about a British-Iranian woman held in Iran had jeopardised her chances of release.

Johnson appeared not to have acknowledged the scale of anger caused by his language.

Illustrative photo of Muslim women wearing burqas.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.