Tommy Robinson, lately the cause célèbre of the so-called “alt-right”, isn’t the only person to rally a small band of fundamental libertarians, fruitcakes and closet racists behind him while the public looks on in despair. Who’s the other one? Step forward Boris Johnson. Who else?
This week, even the Prime Minister was moved to call on the ex-foreign secretary to apologise for claiming Muslim women in burqas “look like letter boxes” and comparing them to “bank robbers.” Boxed into a corner, Boris turned freedom of speech into the last refuge of a scoundrel, claiming his critics were trying to shut down debate about “difficult issues”.
If a woman’s right to choose to wear a headscarf or niqab offends our liberal values, maybe those values are suffering an existential crisis. But what happens when that free speech incites Muslim hatred? A figure like Johnson, whatever those on the left think of him, has enough of a popular following that his words can potentially incite Islamophobes to take the law into their own hands, however far from the intention.
The main problem with Johnson’s Telegraph article isn’t just the offence against Muslims, but the fact the bar to racism and bigotry has been lowered that bit further. That creates real problems in the lives in the Muslim community.
In national newspapers, on TV and in politics Muslims have been pathologised, homogenised and stripped of all aspects of their individuality. [Continue reading…]