In Brief

Boris Johnson burka row: Muslim leaders call for full inquiry

Theresa May under growing pressure to act amid rise in Islamophobic attacks linked to ex-foreign secretary’s comments

The Muslim Council of Britain is calling for a full disciplinary inquiry into controversial comments made by Boris Johnson.

The former foreign secretary sparked accusations of Islamophobia after he said women who wear the burka resemble letter boxes and bank robbers in his column in the Daily Telegraph last week.  

In a letter to Theresa May due to be delivered today, Britain’s largest Islamic organisation is demanding urgent action. “No one should be allowed to victimise minorities with impunity,” it says.

It also notes that there has been an increase in Islamophobic incidents since the former foreign secretary’s remarks about Muslim women who wear the veil, The Guardian reports.

The council says it is “hopeful that the party will not allow any whitewashing of this specific inquiry currently in process”.

An independent assessor is currently examining complaints about Johnson’s remarks and will decide whether a panel should be appointed to formally investigate the matter, the newspaper says.

The intervention comes after Tell Mama, an organisation that records hate crimes, said there was a “direct link” between Johnson’s comments and an uptick in incidents targeting women who wear the niqab.

“Mr Johnson thinks his flippant comments were funny, and while his comments were about the burka, perpetrators see any visibly identifiable woman and off they go with their bigotry and prejudice,” Fiyaz Mughal OBE, the founder of Tell Mama, told The Independent.

The Tory MP has made no public comment on the controversy. Speaking to journalists gathered outside his home yesterday, he said: “I have nothing to say about this matter, except to offer you a cup of tea.”

Several senior conservatives, including the prime minister, have condemned Johnson’s remarks and asked him to apologise.

But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen warned that that will be “open warfare” in the Conservative party if Johnson is severely disciplined over his burka comments.

“If Theresa May dares engineer a leadership contest while Boris is suspended it will be World War Three,” he told the Sunday Times.

Johnson has also found an ally in Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former adviser. He told the newspaper that Johnson had “nothing to apologise for” and must not “bow at the altar of political correctness”.

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