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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Boris Johnson allies say he won’t apologise for “islamophobic” burqa comments

Mr Johnson said those wearing the veil looked "look like letter boxes"

 Britain's Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis said on August 7, 2018 he had asked former foreign secretary Boris Johnson to apologise for disparaging comments he made about Muslim women wearing burqas. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS
 Britain's Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis said on August 7, 2018 he had asked former foreign secretary Boris Johnson to apologise for disparaging comments he made about Muslim women wearing burqas. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS

Allies of Boris Johnson have said he will not apologise for comments made about the burqa which have sparked a row over Islamophobia.

The revelation would appear to put the former foreign secretary on a collision course with his own Conservative Party, after its Chairman, Brandon Lewis, called on him to apologise for the comments.

A source close to the MP told The Telegraph on Tuesday: "If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists.”

The ally, who was not named, argued that apologising would be akin to shutting down legitimate debate.

"It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked - we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues."

The comments came just hours after Mr Lewis tweeted that he had asked Mr Johnson to apologise.

Alistair Burt, a Foreign Office minister was also critical of the comments. He told British radio there was “an element of offence”, although stressed Mr Johnson was trying to make a serious point regarding not banning the Burqa.

The original remarks came in an article for The Telegraph in which Mr Johnson wrote: “If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled- like Jack Straw- to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly.

“If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber, then ditto.”

He also said that women who wear burqas looked “absolutely ridiculous” and like "letter boxes".

It is not Mr Johnson’s first episode of public controversy, in previous newspaper columns he has referred to black people as "piccaninnies",

He resigned as foreign secretary last month over the government’s approach to Brexit negotiations.

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