BORIS JOHNSON: The top Tory said Muslims wearing burkas look like 'letter boxes'
The ex-foreign secretary also described burkas as “absolutely ridiculous” and said their wearers looked like “bank robbers”.
Johnson came out against calls for a ban on the face-covering veils in public places – but compared their wearers to rebellious teenagers.
His comments, in response to the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark, sparked an angry response from Muslim organisations and MPs who accused him of stoking Islamophobia for political gain.
Denmark last week followed France, Germany, Austria and Belgium in banning face-covering garments like the burka and niqab in public places.
Johnson said he felt "fully entitled" to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP's surgery, and said schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student "turns up … looking like a bank robber”, writing for the Daily Telegraph.
Burka bans across Europe
Which European countries have some kind of ban on Islamic face coverings, such as the hijab, niqab and burka?
France: Became first country in Europe to ban the burka in April 2011, with a penalty fine of 150 euro
“It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”
"If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you," he wrote.
"If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.
"I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes."
BURKAS: Police at a protest in Denmark over the ban on the veils
DENMARK: Boris Johnson was writing talking about the Burka ban
The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, said Mr Johnson was "pandering to the far right", while Labour MP David Lammy branded him a "pound-shop Donald Trump".
Labour's Jess Phillips said she would report Mr Johnson to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Denmark last week followed France, Germany, Austria and Belgium in banning face-covering garments such as the burka and niqab in public places.
A fine of around £120 has already been imposed on a woman wearing a niqab in a shopping centre in the town of Horsholm, after another woman reportedly tried to tear it off.
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Businesses and government agencies should also be able to "enforce a dress code that enables their employees to interact with customers", including by allowing them to see their faces, said Mr Johnson.
But he added: "Such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business."
A total ban would give a boost to radicals who claim there is a "clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West, fanning the flames of grievance and turning women into "martyrs", he warned.
And he said that a ban on burkas could lead to "a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation".
Mr Johnson wrote: "Like a parent confronted by a rebellious teenager determined to wear a spike through her tongue, or a bolt through her nose, you run the risk that, by your heavy-handed attempt to ban what you see as a bizarre and unattractive adornment, you simply stiffen resistance…
"If Danish women really want to cover their faces, then it seems a bit extreme – all the caveats above understood – to stop them under all circumstances. I don't propose we follow suit. A total ban is not the answer."
Mr Versi responded on Twitter saying it was “pandering to the far right” and branded it “disgusting language” .
Mr Lammy added: "Muslim women are having their burkas pulled off by thugs in our streets and Boris Johnson's response is to mock them for 'looking like letter boxes'.
"Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions."