The Observer view on Tory party Islamophobia | Observer editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 August, 2018 - 08:00
The need for an inquiry into religious and racial prejudice within the party has become pressing

Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women who wear the burqa have raised a number of issues, some of great importance, some less so. One aspect of this controversy that does not matter very much at all is Johnson himself. As his Daily Telegraph column reminded us, he is a self-regarding, immature and irresponsible man whose overweening ambition fatally clouds his judgment.

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

Related: Ex-Cameron aide accuses Boris Johnson of casual racism

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Another lesson in diplomacy

Indigo Jo Blogs - 11 August, 2018 - 22:29

A black-and-white image of three members of the Ku Klux Klan, two women and one man, in white sheets and masks, standing by a burning cross.As Muslims face the consequences of Britain’s one-time “top diplomat” insulting an ethnic minority (and, by extension, the women of a number of the countries where Britain could do with having friendly relations) and provoking a ‘debate’ on Muslim women’s dress which served to distract from the cliff-edge Boris Johnson and his fellow Brexiteer wingnuts are dragging us towards, I came across a tweet this morning from Christine Hamilton, media ‘butterfly’ and wife of UKIP Welsh assembly member Neil “cash in brown envelopes” Hamilton, comparing the niqaab to the white hoods and sheets worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Hamilton is “ambassador” for the Muscular Dystrophy campaign and Balls to Cancer (though she has removed references both from her profile to avoid embarrassment to them) and has posted pictures of her trekking through the Andes in Peru in aid of the former. “If the #burka is acceptable then presumably this is too?” the tweet asked, accompanied by a picture of some Klansmen in full pointy-hat and white sheet regalia (not the image accompanying this entry). For their part, the MD campaign has been tweeting the same statement all day to those who complained: “Christine Hamilton’s tweet was made in a personal capacity and does not reflect the views of Muscular Dystrophy UK. We believe in a diverse and equal society, and are firmly against any form of discrimination.”

In case anyone needed an answer: no, because when the KKK were still strong and had the support of the powers that were, they used to ride into areas where Black people lived in order to terrorise them and they would kill Black people who were accused of a crime or who “stepped out of line” by getting into an argument with a White person or demanded such things as the right to vote. In some areas, in fact, they were powerful enough not to have to wear sheets; members of the KKK were police officers, judges and politicians. In her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou recalled how a local policeman had told her grandmother that her son (Maya’s uncle) Willie should “lie low” because “a crazy n***er messed with a white lady today” and that some of “the boys” would be down to teach the Black people in the town a lesson. The family buried Willie under a pile of potatoes, and in the event he made so much noise that they would have found him anyway, but they called off the ‘demonstration’.

A front cover from Melanie Phillips's book Londonistan, with the sub-heading "How Britain is creating a terror state within". The picture shows three women, all wearing niqaabs, one of them pushing a child in a buggy with the clear plastic rain shield pulled down, and the one on the left is giving a V-sign to the person who is taking the picture.If Muslim women who wear niqaab ever did anything like this, the comparison would be justified. As they do nothing more threatening to anyone than buy groceries and take their children to the park, it’s grotesque. (In the US, laws aimed at the KKK have been used by police in some states to try to prevent women wearing niqaab in public, but it has always been put down by the courts on First Amendment grounds.) And yes, there has been the occasional story about the family of a terrorist getting a nice town house in Notting Hill on housing benefit and the Mum usually wears niqaab, but that’s not the majority of them, and there’s that picture of three women in niqaab and one of them appeared to be giving society a big V-sign (it’s been on the front of the Daily Express at least once and was the cover image for one edition of Melanie Phillips’s Londonistan), but actually, she was giving the V-sign to some journalists and/or paparazzi. These women have taken far more abuse from the public, in large part because of malicious press reporting, than they have caused anyone.

An ambassador is obviously meant to be an asset to a charity in upholding their reputation. I do not honestly see why anyone would want Christine Hamilton as an ambassador (even if they have several) given that her own reputation is not exactly spotless. Besides his corrupt history (he was the MP toppled from a Tory safe seat by Martin Bell back in 1977), her husband Neil Hamilton now sits for UKIP, a party noted for its flirtation with xenophobia and Islamophobia. A disability charity is there to serve those with the disability in question, and muscular dystrophies affect people of every ethnicity, both sexes and every religion. I used to know a Muslim man who had a severe form of MD, was a power-chair user, and was dependent on others for his every need; he experienced all the usual problems of being a wheelchair user such as taxis driving off at the sight of him, and wondered whether it was because of his disability or his Islamic appearance. Only this past week there was a report of a Muslim lady who wears niqaab and walks with a walking stick being attacked by three white youths in an east London street who urinated on her. Being disabled, especially if visibly so, makes anyone from a visible minority additionally vulnerable to abuse or harassment targeted at their race as well as at their condition and this increases if they need personal care; they may also need dietary needs met when in their own home or in hospital. Every disability charity needs to be race-aware and aware to the religious issues facing the people they serve, and should not be associated with people whose behaviour might inflame prejudice towards them.

Of course, a charity needs the money and they should not refuse money raised independently of them by people with controversial opinions, but the status of ‘ambassador’ should be special and reserved for people with major fundraising potential and an unblemished reputation. If Christine Hamilton ever had one, she doesn’t now, and she should have the status removed.

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Boris Johnson is leveraging hatred and racism in his desire for power | Rupa Huq

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 August, 2018 - 15:00

His calculated remarks about burqas fuel the flames at a dangerous time for ethnic minorities

I remember the first time I was called “Paki”. It was 1978 at primary school in Ealing, west London, now my constituency. I was quite startled. My playground tormentor had to explain the etymology of the term to me. I retorted:“Actually, East Pakistan has been liberated into Bangladesh since 1971; it’s an independent country”, which shut him up.

I was born in Hammersmith the year after Bangladeshi independence and recall the racism of old. In those days, “the host community” saw the likes of me and the two kids in our school with turbans (brothers) as “Asian” – the shorthand “Paki” overlooking different nationalities. The subtitles of religion had not reared their head. The Satanic Verses and 9/11 changed that when the badge “Don’t freak, I’m a Sikh” was produced, signalling a disaggregation of Asians. Race broke down into religion.

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Muslim group joins condemnation of Boris Johnson burqa remarks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 August, 2018 - 13:58

Muslim Council of Britain says comments reveal ‘underbelly of Islamophobia’ within Tory party

Conservative MPs’ support for Boris Johnson over his comments comparing Muslim women in burqas to bank robbers has “shone a light on the underbelly of Islamophobia” within the party, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has said.

Harun Rashid Khan, MCB’s secretary general, said the former foreign secretary’s comments, which have attracted criticism and divided opinion since appearing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, had had a “real and worrying” impact on the Muslim community.

Related: I’m a Tory councillor. Islamophobia in my party goes beyond Boris Johnson | Hashim Bhatti

The rottenness of Boris Johnson goes deeper even than his casual racism & his equally casual courting of fascism. He will advocate literally anything to play to the crowd of the moment. His career is a saga of moral emptiness & lies; pathetic, weak & needy; the opposite of strong

Related: Equality watchdog attacks Boris Johnson's 'inflammatory' remarks

I was called a "f*****g letter box" by some lady in Parsons Green.
Told her to "try posting a letter and see what happens"

Related: Q&A: what sanctions could Boris Johnson face?

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Equality watchdog attacks Boris Johnson's 'inflammatory' remarks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 August, 2018 - 18:14

EHRC says it has no powers to investigate MP’s ‘divisive’ comments about burqa

The equalities watchdog has branded Boris Johnson’s comments on the burqa “inflammatory and divisive”, but said it has no powers to launch an investigation.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had received a complaint from a member of the public about Johnson’s controversial article in the Daily Telegraph, but its remit extended to breaches of equality law, such as the denial of a service on the grounds of race or religion.

Related: Boris Johnson’s burqa remarks are no surprise – his misogyny goes far back | Robert Verkaik

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Antisemitism, Islamophobia – and this is just the Brexit phoney war | Marina Hyde

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 August, 2018 - 17:45
Boris Johnson’s swipe at Muslim women has left both major parties in conflict with minorities. It all feels a bit ominous

Never less than up-to-the-minute, I have just read Boris Johnson’s 2004 novel Seventy Two Virgins. If you’re wondering if that title doubles as a description of its readership, you’re on the wrong track. It sold well, and the reader is duly lured in with the cover quote, promising “Johnson scores in his comic handling of these sensitive issues”.

Related: Former Tory leader defends Boris Johnson over burqa comments

Related: Boris Johnson’s burqa remarks are no surprise – his misogyny goes far back | Robert Verkaik

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Bus driver disciplined for asking Muslim woman to remove veil

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 August, 2018 - 16:27

Woman travelling with her baby in Bristol was told by driver ‘this world is dangerous’

A bus driver has been disciplined after asking a Muslim woman to remove her face veil, telling passengers: “This world is dangerous.”

The 20-year-old woman was with her two-month-old baby when the driver of a First service into Bristol city centre told her he did not know what she was capable of doing if he could not see her face.

Related: Protests in Denmark as 'burqa ban' comes into effect

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Niqaab row brings out the ‘Muslimanders’

Indigo Jo Blogs - 9 August, 2018 - 21:48

A woman in niqaab standing next to a red British postboxTwo days after the controversy over Boris Johnson comparing Muslim women who wear the niqaab to letterboxes and bank-robbers became big news, the party is facing calls to demand an apology from him (which he has refused) and to withdraw the whip from him (which the party currently shows no signs of doing). The former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has said he will leave the party altogether if he becomes leader; it has been suggested that this announcement from a Remainer will increase his popularity among the pro-Leave base. The issue of Brexit is not really related to this; a lot of the districts outside London where there is a strong Muslim population voted to leave the EU, but a lot of white Leave voters are also white provincials and this includes a lot of racists, as well as those who get their views about Islam and Muslims from tabloids rather than from actually knowing any. On BBC London last night, it was Nigel Farage they turned to for a quote, who said that Johnson’s stance would increase his popularity and that “the country” agreed with him — meaning, of course, small-town provincial England. But there’s more to England, let alone Britain, than small-town provincial England.

A thing that has been quite noticeable this time as always when the issue of Muslim women’s dress is being discussed on the radio and in the newspapers is whose voices are allowed to be raised and whose are not. The voices of those actually affected by the ‘debate’ — Muslim women who wear the veil — are almost absent, and those we hear are, in roughly descending order, non-Muslims, Muslim women who do not wear the veil of any kind, and those who wear the hijab but not niqaab. Worse, some newspapers invariably turn to a kind of self-publicist I like to call the ‘Muslimander’: the person who says “I’m a Muslim and …” followed by a statement which is at complete variance with what Islamic texts actually say on the subject or what Muslims actually believe or do. Maajid Nawaz has already posted a tweet thread calling the niqaab “the uniform of medieval patriarchal tyranny” complete with a picture of a woman wearing a shapeless all-over garment with a veil that leaves her eyes partially visible, but that’s just on Twitter. On the Times’s front page, there is an interview with Taj Hargey, who they claim is a “leading imam”, alleging that the niqaab has “no Koranic legitimacy” and is “a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam”.

Taj Hargey is no stranger to readers of this blog; he’s the guy Jeremy Vine wheeled out on Radio 2’s midday chat show a few years ago to tell listeners that Muslims sexually abused young white girls because Muslims in general believe that white women are immodest, pieces of meat and trash. Vine played on the ignorance of both listeners and his other guest (John Brown of the NSPCC) by reminding the latter that Hargey was an imam; the truth is that he is not the imam of an actual mosque but a self-appointed shepherd without a flock who specialises in hostile publicity stunts calculated to embarrass Muslims. His comment about the niqaab having “no Koranic legitimacy” gives him away to any actual Muslim; Islamic practice is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the words and actions of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), on the practice of the Companions and on the other upright early Muslims, on consensus, on reason; even the details of the ritual prayer are not in the Qur’an. “It’s not in the Qur’an” is just not an argument a Muslim would use. (As it happens, the requirement of covering the hair and neck is in the Qur’an, but the majority of the rulings in the Shari’ah are not.)

An unhelpful argument that keeps being raised in opposition to Johnson (and to people who advocate banning the niqaab altogether) is the supposedly tiny numbers of women in the UK who wear it — the argument goes “let’s focus on something that matters”. To give one example, someone reposted a thread from 2016 in which she said she could walk for two hours from where she lived in London and not see anyone wearing it. My answer was that if she had done the same walk ten years earlier, she would likely have seen at least one or two. In the early 2000s, virtually every Muslim group had a few ladies who wore it, at least for some time, precisely because it was a Sunnah they wanted to fulfil even if they did not wear it all their lives; after that, the numbers declined precipitously. I do not have any statistics but I remember seeing women wearing it around Kingston all the time, particularly students at the university, and after that affair it disappeared from the streets. Some may think that is a good thing, but the only explanation is that it was the result of hostility and even threats and violence. Such violence against women who are harming nobody, especially from men, can never be tolerated or justified.

Finally, I dispute the constant suggestion that there has to be “a debate” on whether to ban the niqaab or not. The only debate is about who is harmed by it, and in the vast majority of cases, the answer is nobody; the women who wear it are just going about their day and minding their own business. Generally we ban something because it causes harm; the chief objections to niqaab are flimsy — people say they cannot read a woman’s expression, for example, but the same is true when you talk on the phone. The simple explanation is that people just do not like it, and very many of the people complaining do not know any Muslims and live in areas where there are few Muslims anyway; they regard Muslims as people who live in “foreign” enclaves in big cities. The general trend in official attitudes towards Muslims has been to foster ignorance rather than knowledge; I have been told by white Muslim female converts to Islam, for example, that they have been asked by healthcare professionals if they have undergone FGM, which is a practice confined largely to parts of Africa when they have no African ancestry.

So, it’s heartening that the Tory party has at least been shaken by this attempt to appeal to ignorant provincialism and racism, but they need to understand that this is not a one-off for Boris Johnson. He has a long history of both racist and Islamophobic writing, some of it of a conspiratorial nature that would be condemned outright if it were about certain other minorities. If they want to prove that they are not just a “white people’s party”, they should make sure he can never run as a Tory for any office again, including his present Parliamentary seat.

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Boris Johnson’s burqa comments fuel violent crime against Muslim women | Dal Babu

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 August, 2018 - 16:35
As a former senior police officer, I’ve seen how hate crime rises when politicians make judgments about the Muslim community

I retired from the Metropolitan police service in 2013, after 30 years during which I had to challenge racism from within and outside the organisation. When I joined in 1983, I could count on one hand the number of officers who did not make racist comments. By the time I left, overt use of the P and N words did not happen, however negative comments about the Muslim community continued. In response, I set up the National Association of Muslim Police, in part to enhance understanding in the police service. But such language persists in the wider community, too.

The comments by Boris Johnson, stating Muslim women wearing burqas “look like letter boxes” and comparing them to “bank robbers”, are racist and likely to stoke violence against Muslim women. The Conservative party has now recognised the seriousness of this incident by initiating an inquiry into Johnson’s conduct.

Related: Boris Johnson is auditioning to lead a grim, insular Britain | Martin Kettle

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Ukip members sent 'mind-broadening' reading after bookshop attack

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 August, 2018 - 12:45

Index on Censorship gives books promoting tolerance to two men suspended from party after attack on Bookmarks in London

Free speech campaigners have sent books including The Handmaid’s Tale, The Color Purple and the Qur’an to the Ukip members said to have attacked a socialist bookshop in London to “introduce them to different ideas”.

Bookmarks in Bloomsbury was attacked by 12 people – one of whom was wearing a Donald Trump mask – just before it closed on Saturday. The group chanted far-right slogans, knocked over displays, ripped up magazines, and intimidated the two members of staff who were there. Ukip later said that three of its members, Elizabeth Jones, Luke Nash-Jones and Martin Costello had been suspended, pending an investigation into the incident. Jones was later cleared of wrongdoing.

Related: Ukip suspends three members over socialist bookshop attack

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Boris Johnson to face Tory party inquiry over burqa remarks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 August, 2018 - 12:28

Move comes after MEP says party must choose between being a ‘genuine one nation force’ or ‘an English nationalist movement’

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is to face investigation by an
independent panel following complaints that his comments about the burqa breached the Conservative party’s code of conduct.

The investigation comes in the wake of the controversy over Johnson comparing women in burqas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in his Daily Telegraph column. Johnson has refused to apologise for his controversial descriptions despite calls for him to do so by the Tory party hierarchy.

Related: Boris Johnson's burqa comments bolster his grassroots Conservative support

Related: Boris Johnson is auditioning to lead a grim, insular Britain | Martin Kettle

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