Boris Johnson rejects Tory chairman's call for him to apologise over burqa comments
Boris Johnson has rejected Tory chairman Brandon Lewis's call for him to apologise for saying Muslim women who wear burqas look like bank robbers and letter boxes.
The former Foreign Secretary sparked outrage when he made the comments in a Telegraph column yesterday as he argued against an outright ban on full face veils.
Mr Johnson said it was "absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes".
And he said school teachers or university lecturers would be within their rights to refuse to talk to students who arrived at class "looking like a bank robber".
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt became the first Tory frontbencher to condemn his former boss this morning, and he was followed by Mr Lewis.
But a source close to Mr Johnson insisted he would not be backing down.
"It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked - we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues," said the source.
"We have to call it out. If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists."
Former Tory co-chair Baroness Warsi told Channel 4 News: "Muslim women need to stop being a convenient political football to increase poll ratings amongst the Tory faithful."
And Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell MAMA, the national anti-Muslim hate monitoring project, said that Mr Johnson's comments "clearly" amounted to Islamophobia.
Shadow equalities minister Naz Shah has written to Brandon Lewis and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt demanding action against Mr Johnson.