By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is coming under fire after making Islamophobic remarks targeting Muslim women wearing burqas.
Johnson is facing calls to apologize after he said, in an opinion piece published in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, that Muslim women wearing burqas look like “letter boxes” and compared them to “bank robbers.”
“Boris Johnson’s latest racist insults cannot be laughed off, like they often are,” said Naz Shah, the Labour Party’s shadow equalities minister.
“Saying Muslim women look like letterboxes, comparing them to bank robbers and describing Islam as a ‘problem’ was a calculated attack and published in a national newspaper,” she added.
“Theresa May must condemn this blatant Islamophobia and Boris Johnson must apologize,” said Shah.
Blasting the comments, Labour’s Tottenham MP David Lammy accused Johnson of “fanning the flames of Islamophobia.”
He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Tell MAMA, an NGO tracking hate crime targeting Muslims in Britain, said in a statement that Johnson’s comments “dehumanize” Muslim women in Islamic garb.
“He [Johnson] has little idea of the emotional, mental health and sometimes physical suffering these women feel when they are targeted for hate,” the statement said.
“Maybe he needs to spend some time with us Tell MAMA to understand the impact of dehumanizing words on the lives and families of people who suffer hate.”
Islamophobia within the leading Conservative Party has been under scrutiny in recent months as calls to look into the problem have mounted.
Sayeeda Warsi, a senior Tory member, last month called for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia in the party.
Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, highlighted the acute issue surrounding Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric in her party in an open letter published by The Guardian in July.
“There should be a forensic, wide-ranging and transparent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party,” Warsi said, adding “the process should be published, those who are found wanting should be publicly named and membership withdrawn”.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) wrote two letters to the Conservatives this year urgently calling for an inquiry, as have groups such as the National Union of Students, the Union of Jewish Students, and institutions representing over 200 mosques in the U.K.
“We need responsibility and action from our politicians, not pandering to the far-right,” said the MCB in reaction to Johnson’s latest remarks.
“Mr Johnson’s remarks also underscore the Muslim Council of Britain’s call for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party,” the council said on Twitter.
Johnson last month resigned as foreign secretary amid disagreement with Prime Minister Theresa May over her Brexit plans on future relations with the EU.