Boris Johnson and the burka have, mysteriously – or perhaps not so mysteriously – dominated the news for ten days since his throwaway line in a newspaper article that wearers of that garment look like letter boxes.
“Foul play!” is the cry that echoed through the metaphorical corridors of Westminster, especially – and curiously – in those parts occupied by members of the Conservative Party, hardly a traditional bastion of liberal thought. “Throw the man out,” many of them cried – some calling, inexplicably, for a ‘full investigation’.
On what grounds should he be expelled? For insulting a religion, apparently, even though Boris wrote in the same article that, in the interest of freedom of expression, the burka should not be banned, as it has been in some other, ostensibly liberal, European countries.
Rarely has such arrant nonsense emanated from a major political party known for regularly spouting arrant nonsense in matters relating to freedom of the individual. Since when is a man to be excoriated, let alone punished, for expressing the view that some religious practises can be held to be absurd, and that requiring a woman covering herself from head to toe in black cloth, leaving only a slit to see through, might be one of them. And worse, an oppressive symbol of a religion that espouses the relegation of half the human race to servility – among other inhumane beliefs retained from the pre-Enlightenment age.
And what could possibly be the purpose of an investigation? Not to confirm that he wrote the offending words, for to state the blindingly obvious, they are there for all to see in newsprint. To what other end, then? To demonstrate, I suppose, that the dear old Tories, with their spiritual roots in imperialism, and a religion founded by a man who disposed of six wives by means contradictory to church teaching, is still the staunch upholder of traditional English and Christian – that is to say, Anglican – values.
Or could it be, rather, to teach mouthy Boris a lesson and in doing so spike his ambitions to take over the leadership of the party? If so, the expellers are barking up the wrong tree, as usual, as polls reveal that well over fifty percent of English voters agree with Boris, or at least agree that he is entitled to state his views on the subject.
As much as it pains me to write the words, I agree with Boris on both counts: the burka is both ridiculous and offensive, but should not, in the cause of freedom, be banned. Any more than the nun’s wimple should be banned.
I would have gone further than Boris, though. Islam itself, which denies women their fundamental rights and sanctions their oppression to ensure that its dogma is obeyed, can and should be ridiculed for doing so. It can be ridiculed for various other reasons, too, as should all religions which, like Islam, sell fairy tales as proven facts to impressionable souls, most of them illiterate and superstitious peasants susceptible to brainwashing. Especially as such stories are usually accompanied by outrageous threats, including death, in order to make sure that such stories are believed, or at least are not disbelieved publicly.
The Roman Catholic Church was for centuries guilty of such cruel practices. Countless thousands, for all I know millions, were burnt at the stake for the sin of heresy. The Church has since disavowed such excesses, but let us not forget that apostasy is still considered a capital crime in the more extreme manifestations of Islam – and in many countries Islam needs little excuse to so manifest itself.
I am all for freedom of religion, but only if the world’s religions are prepared to acknowledge that the rule of law, not ancient superstition, is the supreme arbiter of what defines wrong from right. Such a concession has been given, often reluctantly, by the leaders of most religious movements. Islam has yet to concede it, though, and still dispenses fear to uphold its authority, which it calls the law of Sharia.
Islam is utter nonsense and in some parts of the world constitutes the tyrannical plague on humanity that was once accredited to the Catholic Church.
The burka, I repeat, should not be banned, and freedom of religion must be upheld at all costs. But Islam needs to be encouraged to observe the conventions of the twenty-first century, by any means short of foul, including ridicule.