Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sparked a rage on the social media after describing the women who wear burqa as ‘letter boxes’ and comparing them to ‘bank robbers’.
Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph column:
“If you tell me that the burqa is oppressive, then I am with you.
“If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.”
He adds that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.
” I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any – invariably male – government to encourage such demonstrations of ‘modesty’.”
The article, in fact, defends the right of women to wear burqas if they so desire, but it was Johnson’s choice of wording that caused the controversy.
He continued by referencing to the incident in which former U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw refused to talk to a constituent who wore a veil.
“If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled – like Jack Straw – to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly,”
“If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.” – reads the column.
One of the first people to call out Johnson for his comments was Labour MP David Lammy. He called Johnson a ‘pound-shop Donald Trump’, and tweeted that Muslim women are having their burqas pulled off on the streets and Boris Johnson’s response is to mock them.
“Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions.”
Boris Johnson has a history of inflammatory comments and racist gaffs. While on official business in Myanmar as U.K. Foreign Secretary, he recited a racist, colonial-era poem despite having the British ambassador standing next to him and telling him not to do it. He also referred to black people as ‘flag-waving piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ in another column.