Boris Johnson says women wearing burqas look like 'letterboxes'
The former top diplomat, who resigned two weeks ago over the UK's Brexit plans, has been branded a "pound shop Donald Trump" over his comments against the religious dress, made in his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
"If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you," he said.
"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."
He then claimed: "It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes."
Any female student who turned up to school "looking like a bank robber" should be asked to remove their face covering, he then added.
But he stopped short of calling for a ban on face coverings in public, as introduced in some European countries.
His comments have sparked anger, with opposition Labour MP David Lammy tweeting:"Labour Muslim women are having their burkas pulled off by thugs in our streets & Boris Johnson's response is to mock them for 'looking like letter boxes'.
"Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions."
It recently emerged that Johnson - a potential frontrunner to be the next prime minister - is in "direct communication" with Steve Bannon, the US President's former chief strategist and former head of far-right nationalist website Breitbart.
Bannon is currently on a self-styled mission to help nationalists win seats in the European Union parliament.
The far-right commentator previously praised Johnson for his resignation over the Brexit issue.
Following interviews in London last month Bannon appeared to encourage Johnson to challenge PM Theresa May, making reference to May's plan for a Brexit - that kept the UK closely aligned with the EU - that led to Johnson's departure.
Some observers have linked gaffe-prone Johnson's latest remarks to the Bannon's own populist, anti-immigration rhetoric.
Journalist Shehab Khan tweeted: "After meeting with Steve Bannon, Boris Johnson thinks this sort of rhetoric will ultimately win him the Tory party leadership and then make him PM. Mask is slipping and also shows how normalised this rhetoric has become."