Mr Johnson's shame

The JC Leader column, August 10 2018


LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street on June 13, 2018 in London, England. The Prime Minister will attend PMQs in the House of Commons later today. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

August 08, 2018 18:55

Imagine the outrage if a leading politician — a man, indeed, who could well be our next Prime Minister — had been revealed to have spoken sneeringly about Chasidic Jews, attacking their clothes and hats and implying that they somehow did not belong in Britain.

It does not require much imagination, given the appalling comments by the Leader of the Opposition unearthed daily.

But we are not referring to Mr Corbyn.

Had Boris Johnson written about Chasidic Jews in the way he discussed Muslim women who wear the niqab, the Jewish community — and many others — would rightly have condemned his words.

Despite his image, Mr Johnson is no fool. He knew what he was doing when he wrote that Muslim women who wear the niqab look like letter boxes and bank robbers. He was turning a perfectly valid criticism of the veil into dog-whistle politics of the worst kind.

This is the key point. It is perfectly appropriate that Islamic religious practices — as with any religion — should be criticised. Indeed, in a free society it is vital that the fundamental tenets of any religion should be critiqued.

But Mr Johnson is well aware that, while anyone should be able to condemn the niqab, the form of words used to make that condemnation is vital. And Mr Johnson’s words were those of a bar-room bigot.

Our community is rightly sensitive to tone and nuance and while Mr Johnson was, on one level, making a reasoned, liberal case for condemning but not banning the niqab, he was, at a more visceral level in the same piece, sending  a nasty, illiberal message.

Our politics has been degraded enough by Mr Corbyn; it is truly depressing that the gutter is now becoming even more crowded.

August 08, 2018 18:55

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive