Recently, Marmite Man himself, the former Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has been misbehaving, to say the least. Writing a column in the Telegraph, the maverick MP compared those who wear full-face veils (niqabs or burqas) to letter-boxes and bank robbers. I strongly suggest reading the article to understand first-hand the hypocrisy and stupidity of Boris’ views.
Let’s firstly clear this up — there are two debates that have emerged from the article. One is over whether or not the burqa should be banned, which is a perfectly legitimate discussion to have. There are good, valid arguments on both sides of this debate, and it is absolutely right that we consider all of these views. However, the other is one with a more sinister tone: are comments like this, with a distinctly Islamophobic tone, acceptable?
The interesting thing about the article is Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy. In the column, he argues against a ban on full-face veils. On the face of it, this does seem liberal, and, of course, it is. But the reason he cites for holding this view is that it could incite hatred and cause social tensions — after he uses Islamophobic language to attack people wearing the full-face veil.
I am against a total ban because it is inevitably construed — rightly or wrongly — as being intended to make some point about Islam. If you go for a total ban, you play into the hands of those who want to politicise and dramatise the so-called clash of civilisations; and you fan the flames of grievance.
Essentially, he says he doesn’t want to exacerbate Islamophobia, but is perfectly fine with using reckless language about those who wear niqabs or burqas. This is very possibly the future Prime Minister everybody.
Not only does Boris manage to heavily contradict himself, he also manages to anger an entire community, as well as bringing the debate over burqas to the forefront of British politics. It’s actually very impressive — he does all of this in just over 1000 words. For any students reading it, it’s a brilliant exhibition of concision.
On the theme of concision, I’ll conclude — Boris Johnson said some incredibly offensive things, and was stupid to do so. This shouldn’t, however, put the debate about burqas off — it is one that we must have in order to not alienate concerned voters, and in doing so risk intensifying the anger of these voters.