Britain's first turbaned Sikh MP, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, on Wednesday demanded that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologise for "racist" remarks against Muslim women in the past.
In a fiery intervention during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons, Mr Dhesi received applause from fellow Opposition Labour party MPs as he made a passionate speech about enduring such attacks related to his turban while growing up in Britain.
"For those of us who, from a young age, have had to endure and face up to being called names such as towelhead or Taliban, or to people saying we come 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 letterboxes," said Mr Dhesi, in reference to Johnson's column in 'The Daily Telegraph' newspaper last year.
"So rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the Prime Minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks? Those racist remarks have led to a spike in hate crime," he said.
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
Monitoring group Tell MAMA [Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks] had unveiled research earlier this week which claimed that Islamophobic incidents rose by 375 per cent in the week after Boris Johnson's references to the burqa as "oppressive" in the newspaper column.
"If you tell me that the burka [burqa] is oppressive, then I am with you... I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes," he wrote at the time.
Mr Dhesi also challenged the British prime minister to order an investigation into alleged Islamophobia within his own Conservative Party.
Boris Johnson responded by claiming that Mr Dhesi had failed to read his newspaper article within its complete context, which was in fact a strong liberal defence of everybody's right to wear whatever they want.
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! 2/2 pic.twitter.com/R3goWBTh1s— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) September 4, 2019
He also declared he had Sikh relatives -- in an obvious reference to his estranged wife, Marina Wheeler, whose mother Dip Kaur is of Sikh origin.
Boris Johnson said in his response: "I speak as somebody who is proud not only to have Muslim ancestors, but to be related to Sikhs like him. I am also proud to say that, under this government, we have the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country. We truly reflect modern Britain."
The British prime minister called on the Labour Party to address its own problems with anti-semitism, a reference to numerous allegations of anti-Jewish incidents with the Opposition party.