Former foreign secretary (and possible future prime minister) Boris Johnson sparked a political firestorm after making politically incorrect comments about the burka and the niqab, the face-covering garments worn by some Muslim women.
The ensuing debate over Islamophobia has revealed the extent to which political correctness is stifling free speech in Britain. It has also exposed deep fissures within the Conservative Party over its future direction and leadership.
In an August 5 essay published by the Daily Telegraph, Johnson argued that he was opposed to Denmark’s burka ban because the government should not be telling women what they may or may not wear in public. Johnson wrote:
“What has happened, you may ask, to the Danish spirit of live and let live? If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. 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….
“If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery [one-on-one meetings between MPs and their constituents] with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled… to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber, then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.”