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Chief Bakes

BBC: Boris Johnson told to apologise for burka jibe

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Chief Bakes

Boris Johnson told to apologise for burka jibe

  • 7 August 2018
Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson resigned as foreign secretary last month over Brexit

Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis has asked Boris Johnson to apologise for saying Muslim women wearing burkas "look like letter boxes".

Mr Johnson said full-face veils should not be banned but looked "ridiculous".

He has been criticised by Labour MPs, some Tories and Muslim groups, who said the party was not doing enough to tackle prejudice.

The founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum said the remarks would harm community relations.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Lord Sheikh suggested Mr Johnson was "using Muslims as a springboard" for his ambition to lead the Tory Party.

"It is a joke but in very, very bad taste," he said, adding that the former foreign secretary had a "weird sense of humour".

But a source close to Mr Johnson told the Press Association: "It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked - we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues.

"We have to call it out. If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists."

Earlier, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said there was a "degree of offence" in Mr Johnson's comments.

On Twitter, Mr Lewis said he agreed with Mr Burt and called on the MP and former London mayor to apologise.

Former Conservative chairwoman Lady Warsi, the first Muslim women to sit in a British cabinet, welcomed Mr Lewis's intervention and called for disciplinary action against Mr Johnson if he did not apologise.

She described the remarks as "offensive and deliberately provocative, but very clever politics".

A debate about the burka should be had "in a serious way", she said, rather than "trying to get airtime and attention on an issue which he knows will resonate with a certain part of the Tory Party".

She added: "What offends me is that Muslim women are not a convenient political football to be used by old Etonians."

Labour's equalities spokeswoman Naz Shah said Mr Johnson should attend "training and engagement with the Muslim community" and called on Prime Minister Theresa May to respond.

"Clearly the Tory party has an issue with Islamophobia, but over 24 hours later the prime minister is still yet to say a word," she added.

But Conservative backbench MP Andrew Bridgen said Mr Johnson had raised an important subject in a "light-hearted way".

The reaction "says a lot about internal Conservative Party politics" he told the BBC.

Another Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, said the government should apologise and that "Boris didn't go far enough".

What Boris Johnson said

In his Daily Telegraph column, Mr Johnson - who last month quit the government in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit policy - was commenting on the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark.

He said he felt "fully entitled" to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP surgery - and schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student "turns up... looking like a bank robber".

"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.

"I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes."

He said businesses and government agencies should be able to "enforce a dress code" that allowed them to see customers' faces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson said he did not think face coverings should be banned but said the burka was "oppressive"

But he said: "Such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business."

He said a total ban on face-covering veils would give a boost to radicals who said there was a "clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West and could lead to "a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation".

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Reasonable Man

An apology is only worth it if it genuine. Whilst the words ‘apologise’ or ‘sorry’ may come out of his mouth Johnson won’t mean a word of it.
His ‘lovable buffoon’ image has long since gone as he is more and more exposed as the right wing, self promoting, bigoted and dangerous person he is.
He is aiming for one thing and that is to be Prime Minister. If he thought an apology would get him closer to that he would be all over it but he believes there are enough equally bigoted people out there who agree with such offensive terms that he will pick up a few more votes.

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Chief Bakes

Boris Johnson burka row: Tories should ditch MP, peer says

  • 8 August 2018
p06gvp7b.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSenior Conservative Muslim peer Lord Sheikh calls on party to take whip away from Johnson

Boris Johnson should be kicked out of the Conservative Party for his remarks about the burka, a Muslim peer says.

Conservative Muslim Forum founder Lord Sheikh told BBC Newsnight demands from the PM for an apology were not enough.

He has called for the MP to have the whip removed - meaning Mr Johnson would no longer represent the Tory party.

Mr Johnson said Muslim women wearing burkas "look like letter boxes" and compared them to "bank robbers". A source said he stood by the comments.

Lord Sheikh, a former adviser to David Cameron, said: "Take the whip from him. Why not? He's not a super human being, he's a member of the party. The party chairman, the prime minister has the right to take the whip.

"It's not out of order and that's the thing I'd like to see."

Speaking earlier, Lord Sheikh said Mr Johnson's remarks would harm community relations.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A source close to Mr Johnson said the MP "won't be apologising"

Mr Johnson's comments, in a Daily Telegraph article, have provoked criticism from Muslim groups, some Tory MPs and opposition parties.

In the article, he said full-face veils should not be banned but looked "ridiculous".

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has said he agreed with Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt that there had been degree of offence in Mr Johnson's comments, and called on the former London mayor to apologise.

Theresa May later backed calls for Mr Johnson to apologise, saying the remarks have "clearly caused offence".

p06gvl2d.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBoris Johnson 'has caused offence', PM says

She said: "I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use.

"What's important is do we believe people should have the right to practise their religion and, in the case of women and the burka and niqab, to choose how they dress."

But a source close to Mr Johnson said he "won't be apologising", adding it was "ridiculous" to attack his views.

"We must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues," the source added.

"We have to call it out. If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists."

Analysis

By BBC political correspondent Susana Mendonca

The criticism pitted at Boris Johnson has largely been around the words that he used - "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" to describe Muslim women wearing face veils.

But Mr Johnson hasn't directly responded to the accusation that it is his language which caused the offence.

Instead, the statement that has come from a source close to him suggests Mr Johnson wants to turn this into a debate about whether or not women should wear the burka at all.

Keeping a high profile is important to Mr Johnson.

He is seen by some in the Conservative Party as a contender for leadership - particularly since his resignation in which he criticised the prime minister's plan for Brexit.

But he risks being seen as weak if he is forced into an apology by the party chairman.

So his refusal to apologise, and an attempt to now put himself on the side of "liberal values", could be an example of Mr Johnson trying to save face while maintaining his profile.

Speaking on Newsnight, Shazia Awan-Scully, a Muslim who ran as a Conservative candidate in 2010 and is now a Welsh Labour member, also called for Mr Johnson to be sacked.

Image caption Former Tory candidate Shazia Awan-Scully also called for Mr Johnson to be sacked from the party

She said Mrs May "needs to be a leader and take action" over the "Islamophobic" comments.

Former Conservative chairwoman Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman to sit in a British cabinet, earlier called for disciplinary action against Mr Johnson if he did not apologise.

A debate about the burka should be had "in a serious way", she said, rather than "trying to get airtime and attention on an issue which he knows will resonate with a certain part of the Tory Party", she said.

Shadow equalities minister Naz Shah accused Theresa May of being "in denial" over the "offensive" comments.

She tweeted: "An apology is not enough, she needs to order an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in her party, as requested by the Muslim community, and take action against him."

But Laura Perrins, from the Conservative Woman website described the calls for further action against Mr Johnson as "authoritarian nonsense we must resist".

She told Newsnight Mr Johnson's article explored "a very important debate in terms of community cohesion and integration" and his comments about the burka had been taken out of context.

Conservative backbench MP Andrew Bridgen has said Mr Johnson had raised an important subject in a "light-hearted way".

What is Islamophobia?

By BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani

Last year, Zaynab Hussein, a mother from Leicester, was left fighting for her life after a man she didn't know smashed into her with his car - and then ran over her again. She was attacked because she was a Muslim.

Tell Mama, the national organisation that collects anti-Muslim attack statistics, says that the majority of street victims of such abuse and violence are women, for the same reason that Mrs Hussein was singled out: some Muslim women are easily identifiable by their mode of dress - and therefore easy to target.

Seven years ago Baroness Warsi said prejudice against Muslims had passed the "dinner table test".

And Mr Johnson's critics regard his "letter box" and "bank robber" comments as part of the problem the peer defined: normalising prejudice and dehumanising women, rather than calmly debating the complexities of the veil in an open society.

Since Baroness Warsi's warning, there has been the launch of a cross-departmental anti-Muslim working group to combat hate.

But it has been criticised as toothless, not least because the government can't agree a definition for Islamophobia.

What Boris Johnson said

In his Daily Telegraph column, Mr Johnson - who last month quit the government in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit policy - was commenting on the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark.

He said he felt "fully entitled" to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP surgery - and schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student "turns up... looking like a bank robber".

"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.

"I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes."

He said businesses and government agencies should be able to "enforce a dress code" that allowed them to see customers' faces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson said he did not think face coverings should be banned but said the burka was "oppressive"

But he said: "Such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business."

He said a total ban on face-covering veils would give a boost to radicals who said there was a "clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West, and could lead to "a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation".

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SimonT

The thing is, Johnson has been quite clever with this comment. He has come out supporting the rights of women to wear these but saying they look stupid. 

So it gets people asking if that was actually racist, while resonating with racists. Its a very trump style move, saying look at me I'm honest and speak my mind. And the Pm, being generally very ineffective will do little about it, thus gaining Johnson power. 

If I'm honest I think they do look awful and believe they are intrinsically linked to oppression of women. As a society and therefore government we should be applying pressure to have them phased out entirely. But I think there is a lot of fear linked to racism reducing that. 

Of course if I said that professionally I would probably get sacked, but I'm only a police officer, not a member of Parliament. 

Of course it begs the question, can you direct someone to apologise for their opinion? Probably for expressing it in a particularly crass way,  but not got having it. 

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Mac7
The thing is, Johnson has been quite clever with this comment. He has come out supporting the rights of women to wear these but saying they look stupid. 
So it gets people asking if that was actually racist, while resonating with racists. Its a very trump style move, saying look at me I'm honest and speak my mind. And the Pm, being generally very ineffective will do little about it, thus gaining Johnson power. 
If I'm honest I think they do look awful and believe they are intrinsically linked to oppression of women. As a society and therefore government we should be applying pressure to have them phased out entirely. But I think there is a lot of fear linked to racism reducing that. 
Of course if I said that professionally I would probably get sacked, but I'm only a police officer, not a member of Parliament. 
Of course it begs the question, can you direct someone to apologise for their opinion? Probably for expressing it in a particularly crass way,  but not got having it. 


I disagree with your middle paragraph but agree with your last. The garment is only oppressive when it is forced on a women. There is a myth among society that the husband forces his wife to wear the hijab/niqab. Whilst I can’t say that statement is 100% true in all cases, the vast majority where it out of choice. I don’t like what France have done and banned such garments. I think it’s very dangerous to start legislating against what people wear, particularly when it doesn’t conform to our “natural” standards of dress. Let’s not forget that many Christian based faith followers also wear very conservative clothing including head coverings. If we ban for one we ban for all.


I’ve not read the Boris article but having heard the comments I’m undecided as to whether it’s offensive or inconsiderate. Everything is offensive these days and people seem to offended that you’re not offended. But as you point out Simon, because it’s not the popular opinion doesn’t make it offensive or racist. Majid Nawaz (prominent liberal Muslim and one time extremist) sent out strongly worded tweets yesterday against the burka. Is he being offensive? Or are Johnson comments offensive because the simple fact is they came from him?

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SimonT

I see your point and I acknowledge that its not forced, but I feel that even if it's voluntary that it's part of a societal oppression, not just individual. But I am certainly speaking from a position of ignorance on the subject. 

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a-bothan-spy

If you’re indoctrinated from a young age to believe that to not wear it would be inappropriate then can you truly say it’s not oppression?

The suggestion that a human being must cover their body out of modesty or to avoid the leers of men leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

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Reasonable Man

Is it any more oppression than so many young women artificially colouring and straightening their hair, painting themselves orange and having those ridiculous (IMO) dark unnaturally shaped eyebrows - all to be clones of the Love Island/ TOWIE ‘ideals’.
People make choices and we can probably trace the reason for those choices back to some overt or unconscious desire to conform.

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Zulu 22

I hope that Johnson does not apologise, all he has done is to give an opinion. As you have said he was defending the right of women to wear a burka if they so wish. If someone asked you to describe what a Burka looked like, how would you describe it.  Let us not forget that one of the 7/7 conspiracy explosion escaped by hiding his identity under a Burka.

As for the practice of women with hair, and make up they are not being coerced they are merely following the example of very cheap, poor role models who would struggle to qualify for an IQ.

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Reasonable Man
I hope that Johnson does not apologise, all he has done is to give an opinion. As you have said he was defending the right of women to wear a burka if they so wish. If someone asked you to describe what a Burka looked like, how would you describe it.  Let us not forget that one of the 7/7 conspiracy explosion escaped by hiding his identity under a Burka.
As for the practice of women with hair, and make up they are not being coerced they are merely following the example of very cheap, poor role models who would struggle to qualify for an IQ.

Bank robbers have escaped wearing ski masks so ban ski masks.
Murderers have escaped wearing wigs so ban wigs.
People have murdered others while dressed as a clown - notably John Wayne Gacy - ban clown outfits.

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Beaker



As for the practice of women with hair, and make up they are not being coerced they are merely following the example of very cheap, poor role models who would struggle to qualify for an IQ.

I don't know. They may not be the ideal role model, but they're not stupid. Some of these women make more money in a week then any if us make in a year. If that's stupid then they're the right kind of stupid. A friend of mine was heavily tanned, had the silly eyebrows, and wiggled her bum at men for her 5 years of uni (BA and MA), and as a second income for a number of years afterwards. She looks like the standard sexual fantasy of a most teenage boys. She's also got zero debt, owns a couple of houses and works as a councillor for trauma survivors now. That type of "low IQ" deserves some admiration.

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Zulu 22
2 hours ago, Beaker said:


 


I don't know. They may not be the ideal role model, but they're not stupid. Some of these women make more money in a week then any if us make in a year. If that's stupid then they're the right kind of stupid. A friend of mine was heavily tanned, had the silly eyebrows, and wiggled her bum at men for her 5 years of uni (BA and MA), and as a second income for a number of years afterwards. She looks like the standard sexual fantasy of a most teenage boys. She's also got zero debt, owns a couple of houses and works as a councillor for trauma survivors now. That type of "low IQ" deserves some admiration.

I thought that feminists frowned on this type of exploitation.  

As for Bank Robber quotes, how many muggers, robbers, moped criminals etc wear a helmet or balaclava where you can only see the eyes through a slit. I would not expect people to take exception at them being described as looking like a post box. Why should people's identities be hidden by any face covering. It could be said that his words were badly chosen, but only by those who would take exception at the slightest thing.  Perhaps everyone should run any statement by the many snow flakes to see it offends any of them before they even think of publishing it.

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Reasonable Man
Perhaps everyone should run any statement by the many snow flakes to see it offends any of them before they even think of publishing it.

Maybe just run it by some reasonable liberal minded people without a bigoted view on other races and religions. Just to see how people in a modern, enlightened but not evangelical society consider such comments.
Not that that would stop Johnson. As said he publishes such things perfectly aware as to what the reaction will be - more publicity for him. He’s got us all talking about him for over 24 hours. Not only is he kept on the front pages over May and others I also wonder what other news this has helped bury.
He may well not even think such things himself, what’s more important to him is pushing his own agenda. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had media portrayal advice from Bannon.

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SimonT
6 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:

Is it any more oppression than so many young women artificially colouring and straightening their hair, painting themselves orange and having those ridiculous (IMO) dark unnaturally shaped eyebrows - all to be clones of the Love Island/ TOWIE ‘ideals’.
People make choices and we can probably trace the reason for those choices back to some overt or unconscious desire to conform.

Quite agree. 

I often consider my other half putting on makeup and wonder why they should have to. They want to, but why should that be a consideration. I don't want to and no one judges me for not. But the reverse is true for her. But of course if I went out in makeup, that would be unacceptable to some. 

It's a horribly complex issue with society, lots of people trying to make money, lots of ignorance and even the fundamental nature of breeding as a species. 

Maybe covering ones entire body is a more extreme end of the spectrum. Maybe it's exactly the same. 

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David

I don't see what Johnson has to apologise for. This a country with - supposedly - freedom of speech and nowhere has he been offensive but offered an opinion that will resonate with millions in the UK who see such garments as oppressive and see no justification for them being worn in the UK at all. When I've watched debate programmes featuring women wearing such garments, their first words are generally 'it's my choice'. But is it? More often than not, they then go on to justify it by saying that 'the Quran says' - so just whose choice is it?

I honestly feel that if Johnson has to apologise (in no order) firstly it will be meaningless, secondly it will be a sad blow for the freedom of speech and thirdly it will play into the hands of the more negative aspects of society, including those that would seek to impose Muslim values upon the UK, of which such people have made no secret of.

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