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Johnson opens floodgates for more anti-Muslim hate crimes

24th Aug 2018
Johnson opens floodgates for more anti-Muslim hate crimes

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Boris Johnson is expected to get off scot-free after his latest Islamophobic outburst against Muslim women who wear the veil. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has already, perhaps rather rashly, prejudged that the former Foreign Secretary was unlikely to be prosecuted for hate crime. And even if an inquiry is established, it is unlikely he will be called to account by the Conservatives and be duly disciplined if not expelled, as he rightly deserves and as Tory peer Lord Sheikh has suggested.

No one seems to have any doubt that the derogatory remarks he made in his column for the Daily Telegraph were as deliberate as they were calculated, to provoke the maximum response and outrage. Since resigning from his cabinet post, Johnson had been out of the limelight and this seems to have been his way, of effectively throwing his dummy out of his pram. Yet attention-seeking by copying Donald Trump is hardly a trait of being a future leader if that is what he is aiming for.

By refusing to apologise, he is already defying the Tory Leader and Prime Minister, Theresa May, as well as Party Chair, Brandon Lewis, among many others. But his defiance has had no ramifications in and of itself.

The Conservative Code of Conduct sets out the minimum standards of behaviour expected from anyone representing the Party as an elected or appointed official. Johnson appears to have breached all Seven Principles of Public Life, established by Lord Nolan and the Committee on Standards in Public Life that includes selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Ironically, the very purpose of the code is also being trodden on – to “support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and the absence of any and all inappropriate behaviour, in all aspects of the Party’s activities.”

It is not the first time that Johnson has caused controversy or made racist comments, appearing too often to consciously seek it. Commonly he is seen as being flippant, especially with the use of words. Recently, for example, he falsely claimed that evidence of alleged Russian involvement in the Salisbury gas attack came from what he was told by the Porton Down defence research laboratory. Not quite telling the truth is regrettably not as uncommon as one would hope from ministers. The former Foreign Secretary even confused the burqa for the niqab as if it mattered.

Quite mischievously he has had his handful of alt-right supporters, led by fellow arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have tried to turn the issue into one of supposed free speech. Presumably, Muslims are easy fodder to insult at will without any recriminations. Way out of her remit, the Met Chief also butted in to claim it was “legitimate debate”. This contrasts with former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, saying that the offensive comments were not just “embarrassing” but that he would leave the Tories if Johnson ever became the leader.

Lost in the background, are the voices of those who have been affected, and the core issue: that it is open season for a senior politician to target Islam and its adherents using such disgusting language. Even as some kind of joke it is tasteless and disdainful.

While Labour has been under intense and incessant pressure to act about Anti-Semitism within its party, the Tories have not even bothered to do anything to acknowledge let alone carry out an independent investigation about the extent of Islamophobia within its own ranks for the past two years. Without any recriminations, Johnson is being allowed to stoke up hate crimes just to further his career ambitions. He is contravening all of the Tory Code of Conduct not to “use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others”.

Worst of all, the former London Mayor is acting in a way which is highly dangerous and extremely divisive in using language to pander to prejudice. Islamophobia is becoming rampant in Britain. It does not need senior politicians to inflame the situation further and prove that he can do so without any censure or blame and thus give a licence to others to follow suit. It is not unusual for Johnson to cause offence to other like when he described black people as “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” for which he did actually apologise for.

The equalities watchdog has warned that Johnson’s comments are “inflammatory and divisive” but it has no powers to launch an investigation as it is beyond its remit despite receiving an official complaint. “The effectiveness of our democratic society depends on freedom of expression and the expression of offensive and intolerant opinions is generally not unlawful. Boris Johnson’s use of language in this instance, which risks dehumanising and vilifying Muslim women, is inflammatory and divisive. Political figures should lead by example, conducting debates in a responsible manner and language such as this can inhibit legitimate dialogue,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Shadow Equalities Minister, Naz Shah, has also said that his latest racist insults “cannot be laughed off,” like they often are. “Saying Muslim women look like letterboxes, comparing them to bank robbers and describing Islam as a ‘problem’ was a calculated attack and published in a national newspaper,” Shah said. Labour MP David Lammy described Johnson as a “pound-shop Donald Trump” who was “fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions”. He tweeted that Muslim women were already having their burqas “pulled off by thugs in our streets & Boris Johnson’s response is to mock them.”

Whether or not arrogance is at the root of his bigotry, the problem is that politicians have so often been giving ammunition to racists, supremacists and extremists, sometimes even unwittingly. As a must, an example must be made of Johnson if the Government is serious about dealing with the contempt of Islamophobia that has so much affected the ruling party. As The Muslim News has previously said, May must also open up a dialogue with the three million Muslim community to underline its commitment to embracing all sections of society.

Johnson unlikely to be prosecuted for hate crime


Change the record, Boris! The normalisation of Islamophobia

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The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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