Monday, 13 August 2018

Boris and the Burka row

When Boris Johnson is not being a politician, he writes a newspaper column. Last week he wrote an article on why it is wrong to ban the burka. And this caused a tremendous row. The neoliberal globalists were outraged. They characterised his piece as racist, Islamophobic and dehumanising. They demanded an abject apology. Boris was unrepentant, and so the row rages on - it is August, after all.

All the moral outrage surrounding Boris' article is really quite astounding, even in these times of constant moral outrages about little or nothing. Boris' article presented a liberal argument in favour of the burka (which is of course utterly absurd, but it is the position of the political media elite). However, the fact that he was presenting the elite's position was completely lost in a focus on two similes. He claimed that women in burkas look like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers". These two comparisons caused a storm of outrage from what I can only call the simile police.

For over a week, the political media elite have been shrilly demanding that Boris apologise. However, even as the days have past, none of them appear to be capable of explaining why he should apologise. When challenged on this point, they are forced to (albeit reluctantly) admit that he had a right to express his opinion, that he did not break any law, that they do in fact agree with the thrust of his argument. But, they declaim indignantly, he caused offence!

This rationale is completely disingenuous. These defenders of the establishment do not seriously think that one is not allowed to cause offence and that one should apologise if someone takes offence at something one says (or writes). Their position is disingenuous because they are deliberately leaving out a crucial fact. Their complaint isn't that Boris used language that might be offensive (to some). It is that he used language that might offend some Muslims. For the political media elite no one should ever say anything that might offend any Muslim qua Muslim. No one should ever criticise Islam, Islamic practices or customs associated with Muslims: that's Islamophobia (apparently words mean whatever they want them to mean, just like Humpty Dumpty).

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on this issue. She doggedly asked him why Boris should apologise. Vince tied himself in knots as he desperately tried to square the circle: demanding Boris apologise without admitting that the reason only applies to Muslims, and thus repeatedly undermining his own rationale for demanding that Boris apologise.

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