Top Muslim charity warns of 'direct link' between Boris Johnson burqa comments and rise in attacks

Posted On: 
13th August 2018

There is a "direct link" between a spike in attacks on Muslim women wearing veils and Boris Johnson’s description of them as "letterboxes", a leading charity has warned.

The ex-foreign secretary claimed women wearing the burqa looked like "letterboxes"

Tell Mama, which was set up with government backing to help record Islamophobic attacks, said at least four women had been called "letterboxes" in public since the former foreign secretary's Telegraph column sparked controversy.

The organisation meanwhile said it had been told of 14 incidents of abuse aimed at women wearing the full-veil niqab and the hijab headscarf in the five days following Mr Johnson's column, compared to just five such incidents in the week prior to publication.

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Tell Mama founder Fiyaz Mughal told the Independent: "There is a direct link with Mr Johnson’s comments and an impact on visibly Muslim women as a whole.

"Many of these women are from black and minority ethnic communities and we know from the work of Tell Mama that in many cases, racial and anti-Muslim hate intersect.

"Mr Johnson thinks his flippant comments were funny, and while his comments were about the burqa, perpetrators see any visibly identifiable woman and off they go with their bigotry and prejudice."

The charity chief said Mr Johnson's comments had "emboldened mainly male perpetrators to have a go at visible Muslim women".

The intervention by Tell Mama comes amid a furious row over Theresa May's decision to launch an investigation into whether Mr Johnson - who also compared women wearing the Islamic garment to "bank robbers" - broke the Conservative party's code of conduct with his comments.

Allies of the foreign secretary have urged the Prime Minister to shelve the probe, with leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warning against a "show trial" driven by "personal rivalry".

Donald Trump's nationalist former adviser Steve Bannon has also called on Mr Johnson to stand by his remarks, saying he should not "bow at the altar of political correctness".

But Mrs May will today be urged to stick to her guns, with the Muslim Council of Britain writing to the Prime Minister to demand that Mr Johnson be subject to a full inquiry.

“We are hopeful that the party will not allow any whitewashing of this specific inquiry currently in process," the Muslim group will say in a letter seen by the Guardian.

"No one should be allowed to victimise minorities with impunity."

The ex-foreign secretary yesterday refused to answer questions from reporters about the row, and today sidestepped the issue in his latest Telegraph column, which instead focuses on housing.