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4 September 2019updated 23 Jun 2021 9:50am

“We know the hurt and pain”: First turbaned Sikh MP condemns Boris Johnson’s burqa remarks

By media mole

In a blistering speech, the first Sikh MP with a turban, Tan Dhesi, confronted Boris Johnson in the House of Commons about his comparison of women wearing burqas to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”.

“If I decide to wear a turban, or you decide to wear a cross, or he decides to wear a kippah or a skullcap, or she decides to wear a hijab or a burqa, does that mean that it is open season for Right Honourable Members of this House to make derogatory and divisive remarks about our appearance?” he asked.

“For those of us, who from a young age, have had to endure and face up to being called names such as ‘towel head’ or ‘Taliban’ or ‘coming from Bongo Bongo land’, we can appreciate full well the hurt and pain felt by already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letter boxes’.”

As MPs cheered him on and Johnson looked uncomfortable, Dhesi continued:

“So, rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the Prime Minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks? Racist remarks, Mr Speaker, which have led to a spike in hate crime – and given the increasing prevalence of such incidents within his party, when will the Prime Minister finally order an inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party? Something which he and his Chancellor promised on national television?”

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Watch it here:

> Read Anoosh Chakelian’s interview with Tan Dhesi about racism in his childhood, and his political journey