Boris Johnson Compares Women Who Wear Burkas To ‘Bank Robbers’ And ‘Letter Boxes’

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British politician Boris Johnson has said that burkas make women look like ‘letter boxes’. 

The ex foreign secretary has received criticism after he made offensive and negative comments about women who wear burkas and niqabs.

Johnson writes a weekly newspaper column for the Telegraph, and in his most recent article he called burkas ‘oppressive and ridiculous’.

The politician was writing about how there was no need to ban the veils as Denmark have done, but had some strong and controversial opinions on how women who wear burkas look, saying they resemble ‘letter boxes’.

He wrote:

It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

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Not stopping there, he went on to say that the burkas also made women look like ‘bank robbers’, and implied that the veils prevented people from conversing openly with those wearing them.

He added that in order to interact with customers, human beings must be able to ‘see each other’s faces and read their expressions’.

He continued:

If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled 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.

As for individual businesses or branches of government – they should of course be able to enforce a dress code that enables their employees to interact with customers; and that means human beings must be able to see each other’s faces and read their expressions. It’s how we work.

Despite his negative opinions on the clothing, Johnson said that banning the ‘odd bits of headgear’ completely is not necessary, and that doing so might ‘fan the flames of grievance’.

The politician went on:

I am against a total ban because it is inevitably construed – rightly or wrongly – as being intended to make some point about Islam.

If you go for a total ban, you play into the hands of those who want to politicise and dramatise the so-called clash of civilisations; and you fan the flames of grievance.

You risk turning people into martyrs, and you risk a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation, and you may simply make the problem worse.

The burka and the niqab were certainly not always part of Islam. In Britain today there is only a tiny, tiny minority of women who wear these odd bits of headgear. One day, I am sure, they will go.

Understandably, the comments Johnson made have received backlash.

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Mr Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham in north London, accused Johnson of fuelling Islamaphobia, and called the politician a ‘pound-shop Donald Trump’ on Twitter.

He said:

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.”

Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions.

The pound-shop Donald Trump – I’m a fan of that nickname – does not yet seem to have responded to the criticisms he has received.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.