Boris Johnson urged to apologise over niqab 'bank robber' comments

Saul Bowman
August 10, 2018

It is understood that the process is being triggered automatically after the receipt of a number of complaints over the former foreign secretary's comparison of Muslim women in face-covering veils with bank robbers or letter boxes.

Johnson's comments were criticized by Muslim groups and politicians including Prime Minister Theresa May, who urged Johnson to apologize.

"It's not language I would have used and I think he was wrong to have used that language, and I agree with Brandon Lewis", May said.

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.

The Conservative code of conduct says members should "lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance".

Asked what she made of the language used by the ex-cabinet minister, the commissioner told the BBC Asian Network: "Some people have clearly found it offensive".

He then went on to state that Muslim women in burqas looked like "bank robbers" and "letter boxes". May said she agreed with Lewis.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve - a long-time opponent of Johnson - even suggested he would leave the Tories if Johnson were elected leader, saying "I don't regard him as a fit and proper person to lead a political party".

Ms Faifi, who wears niqab, a veil which leaves the eyes uncovered, said she could "empathise" with people who find it hard to connect with women whose full faces they cannot see.

Johnson remains a backbench member of Parliament and contender to replace May in a future contest for power.

It said Islamophobia was "heavily gendered" with white men carrying out nearly three quarters of verified incidents a year ago, while Muslim women made up more than half of victims.

Johnson's comments drew widespread criticism and calls for him to apologise.

"It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked - we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on hard issues", a source close to Johnson told reporters.

Supporters say women should be free to dress as they choose and that such divisive debate only increases pressure on them to cover up. She said she welcomed an investigation, "but let's not pretend this is an isolated incident".

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