Rowan Atkinson defends Boris Johnson over burka comments

Rowan Atkinson says Boris Johnson shouldn't have to apologise over 'funny' Burka comment

Duncan Smith added: "Lots of people of different religions have had abusive things said in jokes by comedians".

The Blackadder and Mr Bean star, who has previously made free speech interventions, said the former Cabinet minister had made a "pretty good" joke when he suggested women wearing face-veils looked like letterboxes, and insisted it was pointless to apologise for joking about religion as it always causes offence.

"You should really only apologize for a bad joke".

"Unfortunately under the new code of conduct, if a formal complaint is lodged - and I believe that reports say Lord Sheikh, a Conservative peer, has lodged a formal complaint - it has to be investigated. On that basis, no apology is required", he added.

Johnson had compared women wearing the Islamic full-face covering with an eye slit to bank robbers and letterboxes in a commentary piece for The Telegraph newspaper earlier in the week.

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.

"I think a lot of your listeners will be deeply anxious about the state of our democracy and free speech", he told talkRadio.

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He explained there was a complaints procedure within the Conservative Party and that the Party had a mechanism for dealing with these issues.

Mr Johnson has also won the support of Tory former chief whip Andrew Mitchell, who said the Uxbridge MP had used "colourful" language but had not committed an offence.

"This is quite an important issue about free speech and it's got nothing to do with the terrible events that take place over Enoch Powell and the Rivers of Blood speech".

"Boris was speaking out against a ban of the type that's taken place in Denmark and some other countries".

The remarks have sparked indignation from within the Conservative Party, with Prime Minister Theresa May and party chairman, Brandon Lewis, both calling for Mr Johnson to apologise.

But the former Cabinet minister, who is on holiday overseas, has made no response.

While fellow Tory MPs have called on Johnson to apologise.

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