MP applauded for demanding an apology from Boris Johnson for racist and derogatory remarks

PUBLISHED: 13:09 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:45 04 September 2019

Tanmanjeet Singh Dheshi. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dheshi. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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In an electric moment during Prime Minister's Questions, a Labour MP was applauded for his passionate demand for an apology from Boris Johnson for racist and derogatory remarks he had made.

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Tanmanjeet Singh Dheshi is applauded in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.Tanmanjeet Singh Dheshi is applauded in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi - the first turban-wearing Sikh in the Commons - rose to his feet to ask Johnson about new statistics that reveal when he compared women in burqas to letterboxes there was a 'significant spike' in Islamophobic incidents.

Tell MAMA reported there was a 375% increase in anti-Muslim incidents after Johnson made the comments in the Telegraph last August compared to the week before.

Consequently Dhesi demanded an apology from the prime minister, drawing upon his own experiences of racism.

He said: "If I decide to wear a turban, or you decide to wear a cross, or he decides to a kippah or skullcap or she decides to wear a hijab or burqas, does that then mean that it's open season for right honourable members of this House to make derogatory and divisive remarks about our appearance?

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

To applause, he continued: "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 rise in hate crimes?

"And given the increasing prevalence of such incidents in his party, when will the prime minister finally order an inquiry in Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, something he and the chancellor promised on national television?"

MORE: 'Significant spike' in Islamophobia after Boris Johnson's letterbox remarks

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The prime minister insisted the newspaper column was "a strong liberal defence of what women wear".

Johnson said: "Under this government we have the most diverse cabinet in the history of this country."

He continued: "There has been no ounce of an apology from the Labour Party for the anti-Semitism which is deep in their ranks."

Following the response, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said Johnson's refusal to apologise was "appalling".

"An apology was what was required rather than some sort of justification that there is ever any acceptable context for the remarks such as he made in that column. He is the prime minister of our country, his words carry weight, and he has to be more careful with what he says."

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