Having read and re-read Monday's (06/08/2018) article by Boris Johnson, in which he compares Muslim women in burqas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, and as members of British society, we utterly condemn both Mr Johnson and his islamophobic article, which does nothing but stoke the fire of hatred against Muslims.
He is fully aware that comments he makes in a national paper are used as justification for actions perpetrated by his supporters on our streets, yet this does not seem enough of a deterrent for him.
His opinion was not sought on the subject, yet he went on to label the decision to wear a burqa as "absolutely ridiculous" and even used his superficial knowledge of Islamic law to claim it had no scriptural authority.
Mr Johnson considers the burqa to be a symbol of oppression, forgetting that Muslim women who choose to wear it, wear it out of their own choice, a right they have living in this country. Who is he to tell a Muslim woman what oppression is?
Comparing Muslim women who choose to observe a religious and spiritual symbol to "bank robbers" is itself the most ignorant type of oppression and is worthy of wide condemnation. It is reckless comments like these which cause Muslim women to face the consequences on our streets. Just this week, two people were jailed for torturing a Muslim convert and a bookshop was attacked by Islamophobes, who entered chanting anti-Islamic slogans.
Unfortunately, it does not come as much of a surprise with news coming out that Mr Johnson – a future leadership candidate for the Conservative Party – met with the infamous racist and xenophobe, and Donald Trump’s former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, who previously called Islam "the most radical religion in the world". Mr Johnson’s reckless statements will do nothing but whip-up hatred against niqaab-wearing Muslim women and will do nothing to help the rising levels of hate crime against Muslims, particularly Muslim women.
What makes the article more worrying are several factors we will outline below:
• The article was willingly published by The Telegraph, having gone through numerous stages before being approved for publication. This is not the first time The Telegraph and other right-leaning papers have used provocative hate-speech to stoke anti-Islamic sentiment. The reasoning provided by BBC Radio 4 for his disparaging comments were that “Boris was just being Boris”. Does this then validate his discordant article? We strongly urge the IPSO to take a firm stance when regulating this type of disparaging ‘journalism’;
• His comments come on the back of demands of an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, which has been described as “wide-spread” yet goes ignored time and again. Baroness Warsi, a former cabinet member said that Islamophobia goes "right up to the top" of the Conservative party but was being deliberately ignored at the highest levels for electoral reasons. This is also evident in the aftermath of the article from the comments of Ms Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, who tweeted “Any clothing a woman is forced to wear which hides both her beauty and her bruises should be banned and have no place in our liberal, progressive country”. This is not an isolated view of hers, but seems to be a theme running through the party;
• With the recent rise in anti-Muslim and antisemitic hate crime, it really is senseless to see Mr Johnson expose his double-standards, by rightly condemning antisemitic hate, whilst taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of another minority.
When we stand up against racism and hate-inciting speech, we do it for everyone, not for select communities. We cannot imagine the gravity of the backlash if these comments were made about people of other faiths;
• It is not the first time he has made controversial comments about Islam. In 2005, the former Foreign Secretary wrote that Islamophobia was a "natural reaction" to Islam, and also wrote that "the problem is Islam" These comments were made deliberately and not in isolation, which expose a worrying trend;
As Muslims who value their faith and as British Citizens who believe in tolerance and freedom of religious expression, we urge Brandon Lewis to conduct a full independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party and also echo the calls by Lord Sheikh for Mr Johnson to resign or be suspended from his position in the Conservative Party. It is truly alarming to think that this man could one day lead this country of ours.
We urge those who have questions about Islam to speak to Muslims directly; visit a mosque; speak to the Imams, and speak to Muslim women who choose to wear the burqa and the niqaab.
Standing as a united community, we thank the MPs and other leaders who have stood up against the tirade of hate and have openly condemned Mr Johnson and those who think like him. It is politicians and leaders like these who give us hope of a united future, free from hate and prejudice.