LONDON – UK’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has sparked criticism with his comment on Muslim women in burkas, saying they “look like letter boxes.”; he has been asked to apologize.
“Boris Johnson rightly opposes the Danish ban on the niqab but denigrates the minority of women who choose to wear it. He described them as looking like “letter boxes” or “bank robbers” – in language that would not be used about other faiths,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said in a statement Monday.
The former foreign secretary went on to compare Muslim women in burqas to “rebellious teenagers” and said he would expect his constituents to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP’s surgery, in an article he wrote for the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
Critics warned that these comments fuel hate discourse, putting Muslim women who choose to don hijab in danger.
“His comments are particularly regrettable in this current climate, where Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is becoming worryingly pervasive with disappointingly little action from this current government. Muslim women bear the brunt of hate on the streets,” the umbrella British Muslim group added.
“Just this week, two people were jailed for torturing a Muslim convert and a bookshop was attacked by Islamophobes.”
Johnson ‘s statement has also sparked an angry response from other politicians with Labour urging him to apologize, The Guardian reported.
“Boris Johnson’s latest racist insults cannot be laughed off like they often are,” said Naz Shah, Labour’s shadow equalities minister. “Saying Muslim women look like letterboxes, comparing them to bank robbers and describing Islam as a ‘problem’ was a calculated attack and published in a national newspaper.
“Theresa May must condemn this blatant Islamophobia and Boris Johnson must apologize.”
Labour MP David Lammy called Johnson a “pound-shop Donald Trump” and accused him of “fanning the flames of Islamophobia” for political advantage. He tweeted:
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.https://t.co/51YTjIdT4x
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 6, 2018
Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted:
Dear Tory leadership voters – one of the potential candidates thinks you want Bannon not Boris on the ballot paper. Make sure you tell him being a Buffoon not being a racist and misogynist more British and more your bag before he goes full morrissey… #21stcenturycalling https://t.co/3FfifuotUx
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) August 6, 2018
Last week Denmark followed France, Germany, Austria, and Belgium in banning face-covering garments like the burka and niqab in public places.
A fine of around £120 has already been imposed on a woman wearing a niqab in a shopping center in the town of Horsholm after another woman reportedly tried to tear it off.