People are calling for the resignation of Boris Johnson following a Telegraph column wherein the MP and former British foreign secretary stated that, ‘It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes’. Ironically, the comments appeared in an article that was arguing against the ban of the burqa. Johnson went on to say that Muslim women in burqas look like ‘bank robbers’.
On Friday 10 August, 100 Muslim women came forward with an open letter to the chair of the Conservative Party asking for Johnson’s resignation and demanding an investigation into Islamophobia in the party. In conjunction, a rally was organised by Muslim Engagement & Development outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office, where women wearing burqas carried signs condemning Islamophobia in the party.
‘Our rights as equal citizens may be debated within wider society but such vile language, which has real consequences for us, should never be acceptable.’
Johnson’s comments have deepened divides in the already-shaky Conservative Party regarding Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans, which some feel are not radical enough. May has ‘scolded’ Johnson, resulting in an outcry from his supporters.
Here is the open letter to the chair of the Conservative Party, in full:
Dear Brandon Lewis,
We, the undersigned, write to you as British Muslim women who wear the niqab or burqa.
We speak as free women who are able to speak for ourselves and make our own choices. Our decision to wear the niqab or burqa is not an easy one, especially given the hate that many of us experience on a regular basis. Nevertheless we do so because we believe it is a means to get closer to God.
We recognise that this is not the practice of the majority of Muslim women and that it is a very small number who make this choice in the UK. All personal choices should be respected.
Contrary to what you may have been told by sections of the media and columnists who profess to know what is best for us, we are not forced to make these clothing choices, nor are we oppressed.
As women who wear the niqab or burqa, we have not forfeited our right to be treated fairly and as equal citizens in this country. Yet we have representatives of our governing party who think otherwise and who use Muslim women in order to pander to far-right Islamophobes within the party, as Boris Johnson has done.
We understand that you have requested Mr Johnson to apologise.
As chairman of a party that seeks to represent the whole country, which protects individual liberty as a cherished British value, your call – we believe – is insufficient.
Given a deliberate choice was made to inflame tensions in a way that makes it easier for bigots to justify hate crime against us, we concur with Conservative peer, Lord Sheikh, who has demanded the whip be withdrawn from Mr Johnson.
Furthermore, given the responses from other MPs, specifically Ms Dorries, and the broader concerns that have been raised by the Muslim Council of Britain amongst others, we believe that there must now be an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Party to tackle this issue once and for all.
Our rights as equal citizens may be debated within wider society, but such vile language which has real consequences for us, should never be acceptable.
We are happy to speak to Members of Parliament to share our experiences and perhaps demystify some of the concerns they may have.
We look forward to hearing from you soon,
Zaynab, Chadwell Heath
Boris Johnson is unlikely to apologise any time soon
A poll by ComRes for the Sunday Express has since probed public opinion, and shown a troubling level of support behind Johnson’s views. 53% of those polled are opposed to Johnson receiving punishment, and 40% said he deserves to face suspension. The Conservative Party has announced an investigation into the comments, but Johnson has since made it clear that he does not intend to apologise, according to the Telegraph. (He was expected to address the issue in his Sunday column for the publication this weekend, but has not done so, instead opting to talk about housing).