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Calling Boris Johnson Islamophobic for criticising the burka is preposterous

10 August 2018
Calling Boris Johnson Islamophobic for criticising the burka is preposterous

A former Conservative chairman has ruled out supporting Boris Johnson in any leadership contest after he compared Muslim women in burkas to "letterboxes".

As the outcry grew, including from senior Muslim Tories, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said he had ordered Mr Johnson to apologise. "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".

While agreeing with Mr Johnson that the burka should not be banned, Mr Burt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I would never have made such a comment, I think there is a degree of offence in that, absolutely right".

Labour's equalities spokeswoman Naz Shah - who in 2016 said comments that resulted in her suspension from the party were anti-Semitic - has called for Theresa May to take action.

Lumping the former foreign secretary in with ex-English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson and a group described as fascists who stormed a left-wing bookshop, John McDonnell called for a campaign of resistance.

It follows widespread criticism of Johnson's remarks, including from his own party.

"That reassurance should be coming quickly and effectively".

Mohamed Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said Johnson's article had been "totally out of order".

"It is not in good fun. Is he using Muslims as a springboard?"

In his weekly column in this newspaper on Monday, Boris Johnson made a strong case for freedom of expression.

He said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that wearers should "go around looking like letter boxes", and he would expect his constituents to remove them in his MP's surgery.

David Lammy, a Labour MP, wrote on Twitter: "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".

Lady Warsi also echoed calls for an independent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, claiming the party's Old Etonians were crassly using Muslim women as "a political battleground and it must be condemned by the leadership right from the Prime Minister down".

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". He said that in Britain, unlike in some European countries such as France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and now Denmark, Muslim women should not be forbidden from wearing Islamic dress like the niqab or burka.