'Mr Bean' Actor Rowan Atkinson Backs Boris Johnson's Burqa Comments
Some things are as certain as night following day or Jeff Stelling getting over-excited about a fairly innocuous footballing incident - and sure enough, Boris Johnson sparked outrage this week. This time it was the result of an article he wrote, comparing women who wear the burqa to 'bank robbers' and 'letter boxes'.
Now Rowan Atkinson has defended the former Foreign Secretary's controversial (and that's being polite) comments.
The actor, who plays funnyman Mr Bean, said that you should only apologise for a 'bad joke' and that on that basis - 'no apology is required'.
In a letter written to The Times, 63-year-old Atkinson wrote: "As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson's joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one.
"All jokes about religion cause offence, so it's pointless apologising for them. You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required."
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.
The Racial and Religious Hatred Act became law in 2007 and it was introduced to punish extremists who incite religious hatred, but Atkinson said it was a 'wholly inappropriate response' and could stifle freedom of speech.
He added: "To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom."
Uxbridge MP Johnson made the comments in a Telegraph column and, according to the Metro, he will now face an investigation by an independent panel after complaints that his comments breached the Conservative Party's code of conduct.
In his column he said: "If you tell me that the burqa is oppressive, then I am with you.
"If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree - and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.
"I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes; and I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any - invariably male - government to encourage such demonstrations of 'modesty'."
Featured Image Credit: PA