A exchange between British MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons is getting a lot of attention. Dhesi, the first turbaned Sikh Member of Parliament in Britain, on Wednesday made a passionate demand for an apology from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his "racist" remarks against Muslim women in the past. The video of the exchange has gone viral on social media.
The fiery intervention happened during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons.
Dhesi received applause from fellow Opposition MPs as he made a passionate speech about enduring such attacks related to his turban while growing up in Britain. MPs in Britain don't usually applaud or clap for their collegues' comments.
Proud and emotional to witness @TanDhesi hold Boris Johnson to account for his Islamophobic attack on Muslim women. The House was full of applause. We will not accept Johnson's hard-right politics of hate.pic.twitter.com/Lh6rzviHJ4— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) September 4, 2019
"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 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.
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.
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 Dhesi should 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. 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.
(With PTI Inputs)