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Boris Johnson to be investigated over burqa comments

The former UK foreign minister, who described women in full veil as looking like 'letter boxes', may have breached his party's code of conduct
He said female students should not turn up at school or university looking like 'bank robbers' (AFP)

Former UK foreign minister Boris Johnson will be investigated for a possible breach of the his party's code of conduct after making comments about Muslim women who wear burqas, according to multiple reports in the British media on Thursday.

The London Evening Standard, citing unnamed Conservative Party sources, reported that a formal decision to refer Johnson to an investigatory panel headed by a lawyer was expected later on Thursday.

Johnson, who resigned from the government last month, made the comments in a column for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in which he criticised the Danish government over its new law which bans the wearing of the full face veil in public.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes,” Johnson wrote.

Any female student who turned up at school or university "looking like a bank robber” should be asked to remove their veil, he said, describing the burqa as “oppressive”.

Johnson’s comments have been condemned by members of the opposition Labour Party, while the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has called for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the ruling Conservative Party.

Sahar al-Faifi, a regional manager for the UK-based anti-Islamophobia NGO Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), told Middle East Eye that Johnson's comments had dehumanised and criminalised Muslim women who choose to wear burqas.

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"We've had enough," she said. "Muslim women are facing triple discrimination around faith, colour and gender. Now we have someone with a high profile normalising alienation and demonisation even further. Boris Johnson needs to apologise for his comments because now he is responsible for every hate crime committed against veiled women."

A Conservative Party spokesman told the Guardian newspaper that the code of conduct process is "strictly confidential".

According to the Conservative Party code of conduct, representatives should "not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others".

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