City Imam condemns Boris for comparing burqas to letterboxes

Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

The Imam of the Canterbury Mosque has accused Boris Johnson of Islamophobia after he compared burqas to letterboxes.

Ihsan Khan says he is shocked by the contents of a newspaper article by Mr Johnson and believes it undermines efforts to integrate Muslims into British society.

Earlier this week the former Foreign Secretary wrote a piece for The Daily Telegraph in which he criticised Denmark’s proposal to ban the burqa and said it was “oppressive to expect women to cover their faces” before comparing them to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

Mr Khan said: “As a British Muslim who has always been told this country exercises freedom of religion, I am shocked by what Boris Johnson has said.

“I understand the country also exercises the freedom of speech, but when the government is coming up with so many strategies to allow religious and ethnic minorities to integrate, comments like this just make all the efforts go down the drain.

“I mean had Mr Johnson said ‘I disagree with the burka’ that would have been freedom of speech.

“But the minute you compare my sisters to letterboxes, you have stepped in to the category of Islamophobia. I do think he owes an apology.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has also called on Mr Johnson to apologise for the article, which angered some readers.

However, some commentators have argued that calling Mr Johnson’s words a Islamophobic is an over-reaction.

Fraser Myers, a writer on the current affairs website Spiked, defended Mr Johnson’s right to air his thoughts.

He said: “That questioning this rare and obscure religious practice is deemed off-limits is telling. Criticism is forbidden merely because of the burqa’s association with Islam.

“In criticising what he sees as an oppressive religious practice, while refusing to ban it, Johnson is advocating for a genuine religious tolerance. True tolerance means allowing the expression of ideas and practices that you don’t like.”


  1. I normally wouldn’t offer any comment on a matter of religion. These days one daren’t, for fear of having some sort of vitriolic tag thrown back, usually ending in …ist, or …phobe. For those who, in crass ignorance, hurl gratuitous insults at Sikhs, Jews, Shintoists et al such tags are fair enough and are deservedly applied. On the whole, I prefer the term bigot, when describing the kind of small-minded oaf who directs abuse at those who observe religious requirements but that’s just my personal preference. As the BBC might say: other pejoratives are available.

    I’ve met Boris Johnson several times and he is far from crass, oafish, or ignorant. I don’t agree with him on quite a number of issues but he’s bright, engaging and his sense of humour is evident. On the Richter Scale, comparing a burqa to a letter box (perhaps he meant pillar box?) is fairly low grade but even so, it’s still rather ill-judged and quite frankly doesn’t sit well with me. Sensibly, Mr Johnson has gone to ground and stopped digging. I expect pressure will be bought to bear and he’ll be obliged to word, then mumble, a form of apology which will draw a line on this matter.

    However, one thing is for sure – Mr Johnson’s comment, no matter how much you may despise him/Brexit/the Tories, no more makes him an Islamophobe than it does me, or most other people with any sense of proportion. We’re all too quick, these days, at firing off …ist and …phobe descriptions of people we don’t like/don’t agree with. We seem to have lost, or no longer wish to occupy, the middle ground (wherein, surely, lives the majority) which is a great shame, as polarisation (especially when whipped up, or over-hyped) is simply not healthy. Among the casualties here are common sense, banter, give and take, badinage and our ability to run with the ball.

    Mainstream Islam towers above silly postbox comments. My worry is that if the media (broadcast and social) are whipped to a frenzy over insignificancies, such as Mr Johnson’s burqa comment, then how are they to muster their forces of rightful invective when something really dreadful is said or done.

  2. I’m sure Boris J is an intelligent guy but he is not wise and never has been. Theresa May has a hard enough job without having colleagues like him. Her judgment has to be called into question when she employed him as Foreign Secretary.

    His persona all the way through has been unreliable. As MP for Uxbridge he said he would lie down in front of the “bulldozers” to stop the Heathrow expansion, but then he was nowhere to be seen for the House of Commons vote.

    His Telegraph article was arguing against banning burqas and yet he descended to “a Daily Mail” level at the point which has caused controversy. He seems to have no idea of how to argue a case reasonably but flies off barking loudly up the wrong tree.

    The Conservatives have acted quickly, even more than Labour with anti semitism (!) but the party seems divided over the issue. Why don’t they just learn that he is not to be trusted and suggest he becomes a full time Mail journalist?

  3. As my daughter said to me, if you put out a plate of troll food, don’t be surprised when the trolls turn up and Boris unfortunately put out just a small saucer of troll food, but it was enough. I suspect that most of the people criticising him will not have read the article and are being just too ready to take offence; Boris defends the right of women to cover their faces whilst saying that he finds it absolutely ridiculous that anyone should choose to go around looking like a letter box, that’s his view, as ever he delivers it with humour, its not actually insulting anybody.

    Doesn’t matter to some, the thought police have no sense of humour and our political establishment have become craven, they need to read the article not rely on the headlines and for heavens sake, lighten up a bit, this is life, don’t take it too seriously, we’re none of us getting out alive!

  4. That’s a shame Bob: I thought we agreed?…. BJ is a complete plonker….disloyal to all he comes near. He has a priveleged background and unlike some posh Tories in the 1950’s and 60’s…has utter contempt for current society. The Tory party has tried(/?) to reach out to today’s diverse society but I guess really is happiest with a white Cof E ( but incincere) middle class Daily Mail reading demographic.

    So why should I be any more benevolent to them? Let them roost in their own introverted back yard.

    OK lets have some response to that? Me extreme? I’m a ( reluctant) capitalist.



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