Britain in a frenzy over Boris Johnson's burqa comments


Britain in a frenzy over Boris Johnson's burqa comments

Rowan Atkinson has stepped into the Boris Johnson row, saying that the former Foreign Secretary should not apologise for saying that women in burkas looked like "letterboxes" and "bank robbers" - because the remarks were amusing.

A hundred Muslim women who wear the niqab had written to Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative Party, demanding that Johnson be kicked out of the party.

The Commission said it had received a complaint from a member of the public, about Mr Johnson's controversial article in the Daily Telegraph, but has not launched an investigation into the former foreign secretary.

But Muslim organisations said there had been "a real impact" from Johnson's remarks.

Mr Johnson also won support from a surprising source when comedian Rowan Atkinson waded into the furore.

"You may not agree with the tone or the jokes, but we have a thing called freedom of speech in this country", Duncan Smith told the BBC's Today programme.

"This is quite an important issue about free speech and it's got nothing to do with the terrible events that take place over Enoch Powell and the Rivers of Blood speech".

Arkinson has previously been a vocal defender of the right to make jokes about religion: "All jokes about religion cause offence, so it's pointless apologising for them".

Boris Johnson is to face investigation by an independent panel following complaints that his comments on the burka breached the Conservative Party's code of conduct.

The actor, who plays funnyman Mr Bean, said that you should only apologise for a "bad joke" and that on that basis - "no apology is required".

"This is quite an important issue about free speech and it's got nothing to do with the terrible events that take place over Enoch Powell and the Rivers of Blood speech".

Mr Johnson, who is holidaying overseas, has made no response to demands for an apology and sources who are close to him have made clear he stands by the article.

Boris was referring to plans to introduce a burka ban in Denmark when he made the remarks - which have sparked anger in some quarters.

Mr Johnson, who is holidaying overseas, has so far made no response to the launch of the Tory investigation.

The prime minister, Mr Lewis and a string of other ministers have already said Mr Johnson should apologise for the comments, but he has steadfastly refused to.