A Labour MP was met with spontaneous applause after he called on Boris Johnson apologise for his “racist and derogatory” comments comparing Muslim women to letterboxes.
Labour MP for Slough Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi confronted the PM over remarks he made in his Daily Telegraph column last year comparing women who wear the burka to “letterboxes” and “ninjas”.
Mr Dhesi, the first turban-wearing Sikh in the Commons, said: “Mr Speaker, if I decide to wear a turban or you decide to wear a cross or he decides to wear a kippah or skull cap and she decides to wear a hijab or a burka, does that mean it is open season for right honourable members of those house to make derogatory remarks about our appearance?
“For those of us who, from a young age have had to endure and face up to being called names, you can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like bank robbers or letter boxes.”
Mr Dhesi asked the Prime Minister when he would say sorry for his “shameful comments”, and when he will order an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
The MP added: “So rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the Prime Minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks which have led to a spike in hate crime?
“And given an increasing prevalence of such incidents within his party, when will the Prime Minister finally order an inquiry into Islamaphobia – something that that he and his Chancellor promised on national television.”
Labour MPs spontaneously clapped Mr Dhesi’s speech and also shouted “shame” at Mr Johnson.
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The MPs got so loud Speaker John Bercow had to tell them to be quiet so Mr Johnson’s response could be heard.
The Prime Minister defended his comments and said they were “a strong liberal defence of what women wear”.
If you have ever experienced racism or discrimination, you can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by Muslim women, who were singled out by this divisive Prime Minister. It’s high time he apologised for his derogatory and racist remarks! 1/2 pic.twitter.com/t6G56coA3U
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) September 4, 2019
Refusing to apologise for his remarks, Mr Johnson said: “If he took the trouble to read the article in question he would see that it was a strong liberal defence, as he began his question by saying, of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country.
“And I speak as somebody who is not only proud to have Muslim ancestors … but to be related to Sikhs such as himself.
“And I’m also proud to say that under this government we have the most diverse cabinet in the history of this country and we truly reflect modern Britain.”
The Prime Minister then quickly changed the conversation to the issue of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
Mr Johnson added: “There has been no ounce of an apology from the Labour Party for the anti-Semitism which is deep in their ranks.”