CONSERVATIVE MPs' support for Boris Johnson over his comments comparing Muslim women in burkas to bank robbers has "shone a light on the underbelly of Islamophobia" within the party, the Muslim Council of Britain has said.

Harun Khan, MCB Secretary General, said the former foreign secretary's comments, which have attracted criticism and divided opinion since appearing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, had a "real and worrying" impact on the Muslim community.

He also said the MCB received Islamophobic hate mail as a result of the furore, some describing Muslims as "barbarians".

Khan's comments came as fellow prominent Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg said the party's investigation into Johnson had been set up as a "show trial" in a bid to derail any long-held ambitions the former Cabinet minister may have for Tory party leadership.

In a statement, Khan said: "The impact of Boris Johnson's comments are real and worrying and indicate the importance of a full, transparent and independent investigation into his conduct, in particular given the lack of action in previous cases of Islamophobia in the party.

"The comments and belief by a number of Conservative MPs that not even an apology is required has shone a light on the underbelly of Islamophobia that is present within the party – one that can only be tackled by sincerely changing course and positively responding to calls for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party."

Johnson, who is holidaying abroad, is yet to respond to the controversy sparked by his article on Monday, in which he opposed a ban on the burka or niqab, but branded the face-covering veils "ridiculous" and "oppressive" and said Muslim women wearing them looked like letterboxes or bank robbers.

Rees-Mogg suggested the attacks on Johnson's comment were a reflection of "envy" felt towards him because of "his many successes, popularity with voters and charisma".

The howls of outrage directed at the former figurehead of the Leave campaign were "suspect" and the motivations of those attacking him "dubious", said the North East Somerset MP.

Johnson's comments on the burka have been branded "inflammatory and divisive" by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, but the watchdog made clear it was not launching its own investigation.

A panel including one independent figure, one representative of the voluntary party and one nominated by the backbench Tory 1922 Committee will look into complaints that Johnson's comments breached the Conservative Party's code of conduct.