Boris puts his foot in it — not for the first time

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - COLUMNIST -

Whoops, he just did it again. Again. It of­ten seems that the only time Boris John­son opens his mouth is to change feet, and he walked into his own punch once again this week with his con­tro­ver­sial/of­fen­sive (two words which are now in­dis­tinct from each other) com­ments about burkas.

John­son ac­tu­ally ex­pressed his dis­agree­ment with Den­mark’s re­cent de­ci­sion to ban them, but Boris be­ing Boris, he then had to go and ruin it all by say­ing some­thing stupid.

He must have known that the size of the hole he was dig­ging when he fur­ther ex­pounded that while he op­posed the ban, he also thought the burka was ‘op­pres­sive’. Then, for good mea­sure, and just in case any­one hadn’t been pay­ing at­ten­tion to him, he threw in the rhetor­i­cal hand grenade that those who wear it some­times look “like let­ter­boxes” and, just for good mea­sure, “bank rob­bers”.

Cue pan­de­mo­nium. Light the fires of hys­te­ria. Set your faces to stunned — BoJo just did a no-no.

Of course, the fact that he had ac­tu­ally op­posed the Dan­ish burka ban mat­tered nought in the fall­out from the com­ments. But he would have known that and there was an un­de­ni­ably weaselly el­e­ment to him try­ing to have his cake and eat it too — on the one hand he op­posed any ban, but on the other he kinda, sorta un­der­stood it.

There are many rea­sons why politi­cians shouldn’t get dragged into a de­bate about whether it is ap­pro­pri­ate to com­pare the burka to a let­ter box, and all of them boil down to the op­tics. He knew that, he just didn’t care.

At a time when Cor­byn’s Labour are on the ropes over the anti-Semitism row that’s en­gulf­ing the party, no sen­si­ble Tory would open the door to have their own party smeared with the same brush — which is ex­actly what his crit­ics did, and did so glee­fully.

Jewish Labour MPs and mem­bers are be­ing hounded out of the party by a toxic com­bi­na­tion of Mus­lim hard­lin­ers and Mo­men­tum fa­nat­ics, so the pru­dent course of ac­tion would have been for ev­ery se­nior Tory to shut the hell up, get the beers in and watch Labour im­plode.

Now, of course, no­body is talk­ing about Labour’s gen­uine anti-Semitic prob­lem, but ev­ery­one is talk­ing about Boris. Which, you sus­pect, is just the way he likes it.

It’s his cyn­i­cism that re­ally grates. One of the best put downs of Ken Liv­ing­stone dur­ing the London may­oral race was that Liv­ing­stone was a buf­foon try­ing to ap­pear smart, while John­son was a smart man try­ing to look like a buf­foon.

The jury is out on just how smart John­son re­ally is, but he cer­tainly has enough cop on to know the trou­ble his com­ments would cause.

As a gen­eral rule of thumb, it’s usu­ally best to avoid peo­ple who talk about the ‘clash of civil­i­sa­tions’ be­tween Is­lam and the West.

But there is, self-ev­i­dently, a clash of cul­tures be­tween Western so­cial mores and the im­ported tribal cus­toms of many Mus­lims. Not all, by any means, and it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the burka is de­spised by many lib­eral, ra­tio­nal Mus­lims.

But its dis­pro­por­tion­ate pres­ence on the streets of many ma­jor Euro­pean cities has turned even the self-con­sciously tol­er­ant Danes and Swedes against them. Those of us who still class our­selves as old-school lib­er­als and fol­low a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy of live-and-letlive, tend to get rather twitchy when­ever the State tells any­one what they can and can­not wear. That’s why France was so ut­terly bang out of or­der when they tried to stop Mus­lim women wear­ing the so-called ‘burkini’ on beaches last year.

It is ab­so­lutely none of the gov­ern­ment’s busi­ness if a woman (or man, for that mat­ter, we’re all gen­der fluid now, don’t you know) wants to dress mod­estly on the beach.

But the burka is dif­fer­ent from the burkini be­cause the burkini doesn’t cover the face, whereas the burka, ob­vi­ously, does.

With the usual grim, re­flex­ive de­ter­mi­na­tion of those who see any crit­i­cism of Is­lamic culture as a dec­la­ra­tion of race war, peo­ple ac­cused John­son of be­ing Is­lam­o­pho­bic. But he was merely ar­tic­u­lat­ing what many Mus­lim women, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and hu­man-rights ac­tivist Maryam Na­mazie have been say­ing for years.

Even the phrase ‘Is­lam­o­pho­bic’ is a bo­gus ne­ol­o­gism coined by the Run­nymede Trust to pathol­o­gise any crit­i­cism of Is­lam as a form of racial op­pres­sion.

And this is where we get into the in­ter­est­ing part of the de­bate — where are the fem­i­nists on this is­sue?

Are they all too busy fret­ting about Ladies Day (first they came for my fas­ci­na­tor and I said noth­ing...) to care about a gen­uine women’s’ rights is­sue?

Af­ter all, their sis­ters are be­ing jailed and tor­tured in Iran for dar­ing to defy the op­pres­sive dress code, yet from Western fem­i­nists there re­mains not a peep.

But the whole Is­lam­o­pho­bic slur is ac­tu­ally ir­rel­e­vant — it is not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect ev­ery­one, of any re­li­gion or none, to con­duct their busi­ness with their face show­ing.

So if you sup­port the burka, ask your­self this — if a group of white, fun­da­men­tal­ist Amer­i­can Chris­tians sought refuge in this coun­try but also de­manded that their women be dressed in Klan out­fits, would we be so amenable? We all know the an­swer to that one.

It is not il­lib­eral to ro­bustly de­fend Western val­ues and the burka has no place in the West.

Our house, our rules.

Cue pan­de­mo­nium. Light the fires of hys­te­ria. Set your faces to stunned — BoJo just did a no-no

PHOTO: NEIL HALL

Say­ing some­thing stupid: Boris.

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