'Almost flawless visual simile': Rowan Atkinson defends Boris Johnson in burqa row

Sergio Conner
August 12, 2018

But the former Foreign Secretary is refusing to back down, claiming his observations were innocuous and adding it was "ridiculous" to attack his comments.

Comedian Rowan Atkinson, best known for his roles in Blackadder, Mr. Bean and Johnny English, has defended Johnson.

He called it an "almost flawless visual simile" and added that is was a joke that, whether Mr Johnson apologises for it or not, "will stay in the public consciousness for some time to come". "On that basis, no apology is required".

"His evocative analogy is unfortunate but he is justified in reminding everyone that the Wahhabi/Salafi-inspired fad of female facial masking has no Koranic legitimacy".

"The burqa and niqab are disgusting tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim", he wrote in The Times.

But Atkinson, in a letter to The Times, said the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip had just been telling a joke. "That is why people are asking him to apologise".

One backbencher told The Independent the handling of the affair by Ms May and other party leaders had been so poor that it has increased the chances of a leadership challenge over the summer.

"We are not bound by collective responsibility or that type of discipline and it is the wrong approach to party discipline".

But Muslim organisations said there had been "a real impact" from Johnson's remarks. What about metaphor or simile?

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"The code of conduct process is strictly confidential", a Conservative party spokesperson said, refusing to elaborate on the procedure.

"I think people are whipping up a little mountain out of a molehill on this one, I really do".

The Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield then suggested if Lord Sheikh handed the comments in to the police, he may find they were "actionable".

"I think it's a very dark day for our democracy and free speech and I'm deeply anxious that this policy is being adopted by the Conservative Party, if we're not the party of free speech, then who is?"

This isn't the first time Rowan Atkinson has spoken out about free speech - in fact, he spent years campaigning against legislation that eventually made it an offence to incite religious hatred.

He went on to say: "But let's look at what Boris said: he expressed himself in quite colourful language".

He said: "If you are going to stop any form of offence being committed like this, you're going to have to close down every single national newspaper".

Some Brexiteer MPs claimed the complaints were politically driven by those who disagree with Mr Johnson over the European Union, while others warned that pursuing him would tear the party apart.

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