Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump, may have left the White House back in August but he's trying hard to win back favour with the US president and he's making pals with UK politicians too. Once Trump's right-hand man, Bannon was a powerful force behind his election campaign. Now Bannon is using his considerable influence to push his 'Movement' and unite the parties of the far right in Europe in order to influence the next UK election. Bannon is the type of man who wants rallying fascists to wear the labels 'racist' and 'xenophobe' as a badge of honour. But what has this got to do with Boris Johnson's recent insults to Muslim women? Well, everything actually.
In July, Boris resigned as foreign secretary over Theresa May’s plans to extract the UK from the European Union. Once a liberal conservative, he was respected in his diplomatic role, hosting world leaders and going on state visits to represent us abroad. He’s now making a bid for the xenophobic vote, and believe me, because of his words, minorities will suffer.
News broke last week that Boris, together with like-minded Conservatives Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg, met up with Bannon to discuss, well we can't know for sure. After the meeting, Boris exhibited what he learned from his pals, by insulting and demeaning Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab.
The controversy began when Boris wrote a piece for The Daily Telegraph, published online on 5th August, in which he argued against following Denmark’s lead by banning the burqa, but went on to compare Muslim women who wear the head covering to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers". He also revealed he would "feel entitled" to ask a Muslim woman wearing a niqab to remove it if she came to his constituency office. He concluded by saying: "In Britain today, there is only a tiny tiny minority of women who wear these odd bits of headgear. One day, I am sure, they will go."
Boris Johnson loves a bit of discrimination, especially when it’s at the expense of women and minorities. He is a public figure with 446,000 Twitter followers; he knew exactly what he was writing when he chose to use this specific language. He knew the impact and the effect it would have. It's another example of post-Brexit Conservatives thinking and speaking like UKIP.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the remarks "clearly caused offence" and ordered him to say sorry but I think this needs more than an apology. What about a resignation instead? #BorisMustGo is already trending on Twitter.
Boris is clearly waiting to make a leadership bid and it looks like he will say and do whatever he must to get there. Many Muslims out there, myself included, sincerely hope he doesn’t continue to use us as a tool to garner attention and votes.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe he should have the freedom to speak about his concerns but when it’s blatantly a ploy to offend large groups of people in Britain, he needs to be more sensitive and the media should filter their writers and promote positive news rather than print throwaway comments like this, which sadly have become commonplace. Because let's be clear: this is Islamophobia and Boris knows it.
Just to repeat, to wear the burqa, the niqab or the hijab is a choice.
Far from making him look strong, Boris has proved how weak and desperate for publicity he is, and that, worryingly, he is taking cues from the Trump playbook. Let's show him that's not the way we want our politicians to act.