Boris Johnson’s ‘totally disgraceful’ burka remarks condemned by community

Boris Johnson’s ‘totally disgraceful’ burka remarks condemned by community

Former foreign secretary's branding of the veil as "ridiculous" and "weird" labelled "dog whistle racism" by Jewish leader

Boris Johnson.
Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Jewish community community groups have condemned Boris Johnson’s “dog whistle racism”, regarding remarks he made about Muslim women wearing veils.

The Prime Minister has added her voice to calls for Boris Johnson to apologise for his comments about burkas, after Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis  did the same on Tuesday.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, the former foreign secretary described the the veil as “ridiculous” and “weird” and said women wearing them looked like letter-boxes or bank robbers.

Among critics in the community, was chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council Jonathan Goldstein, who took to Twitter to say: “Boris Johnson’s comments totally disgraceful. Extraordinary to think he was Foreign secretary only a few weeks ago”

Dr Edie Friedman, chief executive of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality “unequivocally” condemned the former London Mayor’s “dog whistle racism”.

“It is not the first time he has done this and one could reasonably ask what action has been taken? This shows the urgent need for all institutions including political parties to have clear and robust procedures in place to ensure all communities have the confidence that racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, should be dealt with swiftly and transparently, wherever it appears. Failure to do so is particularly dangerous at a time when the far right is again growing in strength.”

The Board of Deputies tweeted: “Solidarity with the Muslim community over rising anti-Muslim incidents. Totally unacceptable, whether on the street or in our politics.”

A CST spokesperson added that “it is very obvious why these comments would cause deep offence”.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism said: “Boris Johnson’s overall conclusion, that we should not ban religious face coverings, is right. However, the language he used to describe those who choose to wear burqas was unacceptable.”

While agreeing with Mr Johnson that the burka should not be banned, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I would never have made such a comment, I think there is a degree of offence in that, absolutely right.”

In a message on Twitter, Mr Lewis said: “I agree with Alistair Burt. I have asked Boris Johnson to apologise.”

In his regular Telegraph column, Mr Johnson said he opposed a ban on face-covering veils, but said it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter-boxes”.

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