ITV journalist Daniel Hewitt reported in a tweet today that former Tory Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been reported to police over his remarks comparing burqa wearers to ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ because such language would provoke the ‘spread of hate crime’.
Running with the tweet, The Mirror reported that a member of the public, identified as Sharmin Akther, said the former Foreign Secretary’s comments would cause abuse of Muslim women to increase.
This latest twist in the burqa row comes after Prime Minister Theresa May suggested Johnson should apologise for his comments.
She did not say the comments were Islamophobic, but urged people to be “very careful” with the language they use.
I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use. And some of the terms Boris used describing people’s appearance obviously have offended.
She said she agreed with Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis, who earlier called on Johnson to apologise.
What’s important is do we believe people should have the right to practise their religion and, in the case of women and the burka and niqab, to choose how they dress. I believe women should be able to choose how they dress.
A source close to Johnson, described as “our Pound Shop Donald Trump” by Labour MP David Lammy, made clear earlier he was not retracting his comments.
It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked – we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues.
Lammy went on to accuse the Brexit clown who fancies himself as a future UK Prime Minister, of:
Fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions.
The Muslim Council of Britain weighed in with this statement:
Boris Johnson rightly opposes the Danish ban on the niqab but denigrates the minority of women who choose to wear it … 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. Just this week, two people were jailed for torturing a Muslim convert and a bookshop was attacked by Islamophobes.
Mr Johnson’s comments come at a time when he reportedly met Donald Trump’s former right-hand man Steve Bannon.
We need responsibility and action from our politicians, not pandering to the far-right. Mr Johnson’s comments also underscores the Muslim Council of Britain’s call for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Such crass commentary should have no place in our political discourse.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, Johnson said said the burqa was “oppressive and ridiculous” but he did not want Britain to follow European countries like Denmark which have banned the burka and niqab in public places.