PM tells Boris Johnson to apologise for Muslim women in burkas comment

Boris Johnson

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

He didn't think Britain should ban the veils in public places, as Denmark has done, but said they were "absolutely ridiculous".

She declined to say if she agreed with those who believe Mr Johnson was trying to drive up support for a new party leadership bid by reaching for "dog whistle" politics appealing to people's prejudices.

"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.

Giving evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Johnson said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been "training journalists" at the time of her arrest, even though she maintained she was on holiday.

However, an ally of Mr Johnson insisted he would not be apologising, warning: "If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists".

Boris Johnson can say anything and get away with it.

Calling Mr Johnson's comments "offensive and deliberately provocative, but very clever politics", she said debates about the burka must be "serious" rather than attention-seeking remarks the resonate with certain Tories.

There was no immediate sign Mr Johnson planned to back down.

He also said it made its wearers look like letter boxes or bank robbers.

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He wrote: 'If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you.

He said he felt "fully entitled" to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP surgery - and schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student "turns up. looking like a bank robber".

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.

Mr Johnson was backed by his father, Stanley, who said people were " whipping up a little mountain out of a molehill on this one".

Johnson used his weekly column in the Telegraph newspaper on Monday to argue against a ban on the burqa, as implemented by Denmark, France and Austria, saying people should be free to choose their own dress.

"The Prime Minister is in denial".

Boris Johnson has been told to apologise for comments about burqa-wearing women (Victoria Jones/PA Wire).

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".

Mr Johnson has long campaigned for equal treatment for women in developing countries, especially the provision of education for girls.

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