On August 5, Britain’s former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, published an article in The Daily Telegraph. Entitled “Denmark has got it wrong. Yes, the burka is oppressive and ridiculous – but that’s still no reason to ban it”, the article created a furore both within and outside his own Tory party, and for more than one reason.
Johnson is currently the strongest candidate to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, given her increasing weakness as a leader, largely due to the problems surrounding Brexit and her inability to create a suitable deal for it. This is relevant to the furore. Johnson is an ambitious politician who is given to making controversial comments.
Despite his popularity in some circles, Johnson has his enemies, and not just within Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party (where the slightest hint of what is called Islamophobia must at all costs be condemned). It is regrettable then, that his careless remarks on women in niqabs and burqas resembling letterboxes or looking like bank robbers brought down the wrath of the politically correct and ended by ignoring the far more constructive statements in the article as a whole.
The varied, mostly negative, responses to Johnson’s article have been well explained by Soeren Kern. But not everyone thought badly of Johnson’s piece, given that he had not called for the full face veil to be banned in the UK, even though it is banned in several European countries and elsewhere. Before the Dutch ban, there was a ban by Denmark this year. Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, but writing in The Spectator, described Johnson as having taken a liberal stance on the veil by refusing to let the state determine how citizens may dress. He also pointed out that “as we now know, you’re not allowed to say anything even remotely critical about Islam or its practices these days”.