Equalities watchdog blasts Boris Johnson over burqa comments
Boris Johnson’s recent remarks about women who wear burqas were “dehumanising” and “divisive,” according to the equalities watchdog.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission urged the ex-Cabinet minister to “lead by example” and use more “responsible” language when engaging in public debate.
Mr Johnson sparked controversy this week in a Telegraph article in which he said he women wearing burqas looked like post boxes and bank robbers.
After a deluge of complaints, the Conservative party launched an investigation into the comments.
Responding to the incident today, Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “The effectiveness of our democratic society depends on freedom of expression and the expression of offensive and intolerant opinions is generally not unlawful.
“Boris Johnson’s use of language in this instance, which risks dehumanising and vilifying Muslim women, is inflammatory and divisive.
“Political figures should lead by example, conducting debates in a responsible manner and language such as this can inhibit legitimate dialogue.”
Both the Prime Minister and Tory party chair Brandon Lewis have demanded an apology from the former Foreign Secretary, but Mr Johnson has not responded publicly.
The investigation has caused a backlash amongst some Conservative MPs, however, with many questioning Mr Lewis’ motives.
One told the Telegraph: "This is a complete own goal by Brandon Lewis. To anyone objective, it looks like a crude and unprincipled kneecap job on the favourite to succeed Theresa May.
"In the process he has managed to turn a minor story into a five-day frenzy of virtue signalling nonsense. Brandon needs to close this down or he won't last as party chairman."
Conor Burns, a Tory MP and ally of Mr Johnson, told the paper: "It would be perverse and bizarre were the party to launch a formal investigation.
"When we have reached the stage when you cannot express an opinion it is a rum do in the party of freedom.
"What should have been a 24-hour news story has dragged on for the best part of a week and is damaging the party."