Home FINANCE Boris Johnson faces criticism over burka ‘letter box’ jibe

Boris Johnson faces criticism over burka ‘letter box’ jibe

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Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been accused of Islamophobia after saying Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letter boxes”.

He said he was against bans on face-covering veils in public places, in his Telegraph column, but added that they looked “absolutely ridiculous”.

The Muslim Council of Britain accused him of “pandering to the far right”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said she would report Mr Johnson to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Muslim Council of Britain said the comments were “particularly regrettable in this current climate, where Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is becoming worryingly pervasive”.

The group said that the government had shown “little action” to tackle anti-Muslim hate and repeated its call for an inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

Mr Johnson – who last month quit the government in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy – was commenting on the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark.

He said he felt “fully entitled” to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP surgery – and schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student “turns up… looking like a bank robber”.

“If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you,” he said.

“If you say 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 the practice in the Koran.

“I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

He said businesses and government agencies should be able to “enforce a dress code” that allowed them to see customers’ faces.

But he said: “Such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business.”

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”.

The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, said Mr Johnson was “pandering to the far right”.

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AFP

Image caption

Denmark has seen protests against the veil ban

Labour MPs accused of him of stoking Islamophobia to boost his ambitions of becoming the next Conservative leader.

Labour MP David Lammy said: “Muslim women are having their burkas pulled off by thugs in our streets and 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.”

Labour MP Stella Creasy said the former foreign secretary was in danger of “going full Morrissey” – a reference to the former Smiths singer whose comments on immigration have sparked controversy.

Her advice to Mr Johnson was that “being a buffoon, not being a racist and misogynist, [is] more British”.

Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “The long-standing government position on this is clear, that we do not support a ban on the wearing of the veil in public.

“Such a prescriptive approach would be not in keeping with British values of religious tolerance and gender equality.”

Denmark last week followed France, Germany, Austria and Belgium in banning face-covering garments such as the burka and niqab in public places.



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