Johnson refuses to apologise over 'offensive' burqa comments

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                    Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has criticised Boris Johnson for being'offensive

Johnson said he opposed banning burqas and other face-covering garments, but wrote that it was "absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes".

Lord Pickles called for Mr Johnson to apologise, but dismissed suggestions that is comments were comparable to Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech.

"If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you", he said.

Tory peer Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, a former party chair and diplomat, accused Johnson of adopting the "dog-whistle" tactics of right-wing firebrand Steve Bannon, US President Donald Trump's former top aide.

"The party chairman, the Prime Minister has the right to take the whip ... that's the thing I'd like to see".

Mr Johnson said that schools and universities should expect students to remove face coverings if they turn up "looking like a bank robber".

It came after Alistair Burt, the minister for the Middle East, who worked under Johnson, described the comments as offensive and said he would never have said anything similar.

- Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) August 6, 2018If only there were some way of knowing what might have prompted Boris Johnson to fan hatred of Muslims?

The shadow equalities minister, Naz Shah, said: "An apology isn't good enough".

In his weekly column in this newspaper on Monday, Boris Johnson made a strong case for freedom of expression.

"Clearly the Tory party has an issue with Islamophobia, but over 24 hours later the Prime Minister is still yet to say a word".

She declined to say if she agreed with those who believe Mr Johnson was trying to drive up support for a new party leadership bid by reaching for "dog whistle" politics appealing to people's prejudices.

The MCB said Tories must now deliver the independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party which it has been demanding.

Labour's Jess Phillips tweeted that Mr Johnson was "just a racist" in response.

But he said: "Such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business".

"One day, I am sure, they will go".

The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, said Mr Johnson was "pandering to the far right".

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries backed a ban on the burka, saying: "Any clothing a woman is forced to wear which hides both her beauty and her bruises should be banned and have no place in our liberal, progressive country".

Lumping the former foreign secretary in with ex-English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson and a group described as fascists who stormed a left-wing bookshop, John McDonnell called for a campaign of resistance.

Mr McDonnell also pointed to the protest at Bookmarks in Bloomsbury, central London, on Saturday as proof of a rise of the far right.

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