Boris Johnson’s recent comments on the burqa have triggered a range of responses, both condemning and defending him
Under fire for comparing Muslim women who wear the niqab to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers", former UK foreign secretary of Boris Johnson has become the target of anger and mockery.
Social media users have been drawing attention to hate crimes against Muslim women and accusing Johnson of contributing to the normalisation of Islamophobic attacks.
If Boris Johnson can insult Muslim women in a newspaper column, sections of society will feel empowered to insult Muslim women in public. He knows this. His defenders know this. They’re all quite comfortable with it.
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) August 7, 2018
Johnson, who resigned from the government last month, made the comments in a column for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in which he criticised the Danish government over its new law which bans the wearing of the full face veil in public.
Johnson has faced pressure to apologise for his remarks as critics have accused him of contributing to a climate of Islamophobia.
Despite mounting pressure, Johnson is yet to respond to criticism and calls for an apology.
Great day catching up with my bestie 😍 pic.twitter.com/AIaKhM9GOs
— Hashashin (@HashashinTag) August 9, 2018
One Muslim woman who wears the face veil posed next to a letterbox in a mocking post on Twitter…
I was walking though a train station with my wife and a our baby 👶🏽 in a sling a few years ago when a racist with his wife and children on the opposite platform started making monkey noises and shouting at my wife ‘LETTERBOX’
It’s racist and it matters!#BorisMustGo
— ℂ𝕖𝕣𝕚𝕖 𝕂𝕒𝕝𝕖𝕖𝕞 𝔹𝕦𝕝𝕝𝕚𝕧𝕒𝕟𝕥 (@CerieOfficial) August 6, 2018
Johnson is to face investigation for his remarks which could be in breach of his party’s code of conduct. The Conservative Party code of conduct states that individuals should “not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others” as well as “lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance”.
After receiving several complaints, an independent panel will examine them and could refer Johnson to the party’s board which has the power to expel him.
Boris Johnson’s burka remarks are market testing, as in how much of a storm will there be? How quickly will it pass? and then, how soon can I make this kind of talk acceptable?
— Charlotte Williams (@charlandcol) August 8, 2018
A hundred Muslim women who wear the niqab or burqa – a face covering worn by many Muslim women - have signed a letter to the Conservative Party chairman, Brandon Lewis with regards to Johnson’s comments. The letter states that the “deliberate” choice of words were used to “inflame tensions in a way that makes it easier for bigots to justify hate crimes” and that “such vile language which has real consequences for us, should never be acceptable”.
How many women in Britain actually wear a burqa? Shouldn’t we be discussing more important things like rail fares, hikes in energy bills and the cost of living crisis? (I can see why the likes of Boris Johnson doesn’t want us focusing on those). #PoliticsofMassDistraction
— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) August 9, 2018
Protestors also gathered in Johnson’s constituency, Uxbridge, on Thursday, holding placards that read “my dress my choice” and demanding action to be taken against him.
The founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Lord Sheikh claimed that he has received a wave of racist and Islamophobic abuse since he complained about Johnson’s comments. In an interview with the Evening Standard, he stated that Johnson has given “oxygen to people that want to cause problems” adding that the inflammatory remarks “encourage bigotry”.
After writing to the Conservative chairman, asking him to take serious action and withdrawing the Tory whip from Johnson, Lord Sheikh said that he received emails calling him a “black so-and so” and telling him to “go back to your own country”.
Social media users also called out actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, who defended Johnson’s comments as a “good” joke.
In a letter to The Times, Atkinson said: “All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them”.
I usually defend comedians’ right to say provocative things in comedy clubs. Bad jokes will be booed or heckled. People may leave in protest. But politicians are not comedians - their words, their jokes even, carry greater weight
— Greg Jenner (@greg_jenner) August 10, 2018
The UK has seen a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes in recent years. According to the Metropolitan Police Force Statistics, there were 1,115 Islamophobic hate crimes reported in 2015/16, which then increased to 1,264 in 2016/17. In July 2016, the month after the UK voted to leave the EU, there was a 41% increase in the number of racist and religious abuse recorded by police in England and Wales.