Johnson under fire after ridiculing women in burqas

The UK's ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure from within his party after his contentious remarks about women wearing burqas (he described them as resembling "letter boxes" and "bank robbers"). Several leading Tory politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have demanded that he apologise. Johnson refuses to do so. Is he right to stick to his guns?

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The Evening Standard (GB) /

Women criminalised and dehumanised

Boris Johnson must apologise immediately, columnist Matthew d'Ancona demands in The Evening Standard:

“In two cheap, throwaway gags, he managed both to criminalise and to dehumanise those he was elsewhere claiming to defend. ... Quite unambiguously he demeaned Muslim women in demotic language that echoes the casual mockery of the street or the pub. It is a rhetorical device as cunning as it is reprehensible. ... It is essential that he apologise, without qualification, for the disgrace he has brought on his party. It is essential that this not be brushed aside as a 'gaffe'.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Column was an appeal in defence of freedom

The Daily Telegraph, in which Johnson published his column on the Danish burqa ban, defends the former foreign secretary:

“To most right-thinking people this article, written with the former foreign secretary's customary elan, was a defence of the rights of Muslim women to dress as they please. His concern - and it is one shared by many - is that they are often not dressing as they please but as they are required to by their community. It might be imagined that those who care about women's rights would share some of these misgivings. Alternatively, liberals might be expected to praise Mr Johnson for his stand in defence of religious freedom, even if they do not seem to have made a fuss when other EU countries banned the burka outright.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Believers must be able to cope with ridicule

Die Welt sides with Johnson:

“Of course a free citizen should be allowed to quip about Catholic priests traipsing around in women's clothing. The clerical collar has always been referred to as the 'dog collar' in Britain. And there's no obligation to love kippahs and sidelocks, either. Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other groups must put up with ridicule, as long as it goes hand in hand with the idea that naturally they have the right to make themselves ridiculous as they see fit. It's not Boris Johnson who's pouring oil on the fire, but those who accuse him of Islamophobia even though he has taken up the cudgels for the very freedoms that have fallen by the wayside in so many EU countries.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Scoring points with voters at Muslims' expense

The former foreign minister is trying to score points with the Tory voter base with his Islamophobic remarks, The Guardian explains:

“Mr Johnson was not interested in a discussion about the burqa. He is interested in himself. In so far as he will have thought about the effect of his remarks - which is doubtful - his primary concern will have been to be noticed. Mr Johnson craves attention. He seeks to speak to and for the Tory grassroots, because they offer him his path to the leadership. Baroness Warsi was absolutely correct to call Mr Johnson out on this on Tuesday when she called the remarks 'dog-whistle Islamophobia'.”