Boris Johnson told to apologise for calling Muslim women 'letterboxes' and 'bank robbers' in powerful exchange in Parliament

  • UK members of Parliament broke into applause on Wednesday after a powerful question to Boris Johnson in which the prime minister was accused of making “racist and derogatory” remarks.
  • The question from opposition Labour Party MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi related to a column written by Johnson last year in which he compared Muslim women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.”
  • Johnson refused to apologise, saying he had Muslim ancestors and a diverse Cabinet.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to apologise about a column he wrote last year in which he compared Muslim women who wear the burqa to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.”

Johnson was labelled “racist” by Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, during his first ever session of Prime Minister’s Questions, in a powerful question which drew applause from his fellow members of parliament.

“For those of us who from a young age have had to endure and face up to being called names like ‘towel head’ or ‘Taliban’ or coming from ‘bongo-bongo land,’ we can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like bank robbers and letterboxes.

“So rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when wil the prime minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks?”

Statistics released earlier this week suggest that there was a spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the controversy over Johnson’s column.

According to reports registered with the anti-racist organisation Tell Mama, 42% of street attacks on Muslims in the weeks following its publication, referenced either Johnson or his words.

Responding to Singh Dhesi’s question, Johnson insisted that his column was actually making the “liberal” case that Muslim women should be free to wear what they pleased. He added that he had Muslim ancestors of his own and urged the Labour MP to concentrate on incidents of anti-Semitism within the Labour party instead.

Watch Boris Johnson asked about ‘racist’ comments at first PMQs

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