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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.

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'Boris has caused offence' over burqa remarks, says Theresa May – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 22:17

Former foreign secretary has caused offence by saying that Muslim women who wear burqas look like 'letterboxes' or 'bank robbers', said Theresa May.

Johnson, who resigned last month over the Chequers Brexit deal, prompting an outcry from other politicians and Muslim groups with his comments. 'It was the wrong language to use. He should not have used it,' the prime minister said. 

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Tories under pressure over disciplinary action against Boris Johnson

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 20:45

Complaint lodged against former foreign secretary as he continues to refuse to apologise for burqa comments

The Conservative party is coming under intense pressure to decide whether to take disciplinary action against Boris Johnson following his continued refusal to apologise for his controversial descriptions of fully veiled Muslim women.

A complaint about Johnson has been lodged with Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis, who is responsible for the party’s code of conduct which says that Tory MPs and other holders of public office should “foster respect and tolerance” in their work.

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Boris Johnson's burqa comments bolster his grassroots Conservative support

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 19:53

Tory activists claim party members admire former foreign secretary’s “straight talking”

Boris Johnson’s support among grassroots Conservatives, already resurgent in the wake of his resignation over Brexit, appears to have been bolstered further by his claim that Muslim women in burqas resemble letterboxes and bank robbers.

Tory activists have claimed that party members admire the former foreign secretary’s “straight talking” on the controversial issue and suggested his words implied he had listened to some of their concerns about community integration.

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Belittled by burqa row, British Muslims fear rise in hate crime

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 18:56

‘When people attack you, you feel like the only thing you have to cling on to is your religion’

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What Muslim women ought not to wear isn’t a matter for Boris Johnson | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 18:08
Readers respond to the former foreign secretary’s comparison of Muslim women in burqas to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’

I’m appalled by Boris Johnson’s comments on the niqab being compared to a “letterbox” (Johnson should apologise for ‘offensive’ burqa remarks, says May, 8 August). As an Ahmadi Muslim woman who has chosen to wear a hijab, I find Mr Johnson’s words to be utterly offensive. A Muslim woman – or any woman, in fact – has a right to wear what she pleases. Why does the media consistently target Muslim women who wish to wear Islamic dress? It’s not a government’s place to ban Islamic or any religious clothing. It’s absurd that running around naked seems to be OK but wearing clothes is offensive. Surely Denmark should focus on pressing issues such as climate change, pollution and the gender pay gap.

In a new working paper, Henrik Kleven states “The arrival of children creates a gender gap in earnings of around 20%” in Denmark, penalising a woman for having a child. These are the real issues Denmark should focus on. As for Mr Johnson’s offensive remarks, I urge himMr Johnson to think about the way he talks about women. The Qur’an (chapter 24, verse 32) teaches: “Restrain their looks and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty or embellishment except that which is apparent thereof and that they draw their head-covering over their bosoms.”

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Being middle-aged is like taking a warm bath – if you remember not to care | Zoe Williams

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 16:44

I turned 45 this week, but I have no intention of ‘acting my age’. In this respect, my latest birthday was just like all the others

The middle-aged have pulled off an almighty swizz on the world: 40 is no longer old and only a really old person would remark upon your advancing age, while 50 is a fait accompli; of course you are middle-aged and if anyone wanted to mention it they should have done so years ago. It is a fabulous act of cunning, as if a 16-year-old told you that it was the most suburban thing that they weren’t allowed to vote, then turned round at 21 and said: “What did you let me vote for? You can see that I’m still basically a child.” Except a young person would never do that, because they have more honour.

There is a hard ball of truth among this candyfloss of spin, which is the age of 45. You’re not 40. It’s not the new 35. You are not some symmetrical, nothing number – 42, 44 – to which no meaning can be attached. You are not mourning your youth, which is years behind you, but you are no longer in that enjoyable limbo where there is no name for what you are. You are more than a bit middle-aged: you are its dictionary definition.

Centrism says: 'Aren’t we all patriots at heart​? Don’t we all hate immigrants and politicians?'

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Dominic Grieve: I will leave party if Boris Johnson becomes leader

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 15:52

Former attorney general says comments about burqas show Johnson is not a ‘fit and proper’ person to lead Tories

A former Conservative minister has said he would leave the party if Boris Johnson were elected leader, as recriminations mounted over the former foreign secretary’s description of Muslim women in burqas.

The former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who has become a prominent advocate for a soft Brexit, described Johnson’s comments in a Telegraph column as “very embarrassing”. Meanwhile, more Tory MPs called for Johnson to apologise.

We are now into full bandwagon jumping territory on @BorisJohnson article. Seeing some of the tweets from colleagues desperate not to get left behind I can't see they can even have read it. If they did they clearly didn't understand it.

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May must learn from Labour mistakes and stamp out Tory Islamophobia | Jonathan Freedland

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 12:33

Boris Johnson’s burqa remarks were not a one-off. The Conservatives need to show zero tolerance to such damaging derision

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Boris Johnson’s contempt for Muslim women is part of a dangerous pattern | Sayeeda Warsi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2018 - 10:25
Ridiculing people doesn’t make them more likely to integrate. The Conservative party is alienating a whole section of society

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