In January, then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rejected accusations that he had sparked anti-Muslim rhetoric by comparing women wearing burkas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in a column for the newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
UK prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson has been slammed by a number of Muslim organisations for claiming that the Muslim world was allegedly “literally centuries behind” the West due to Islam.
In an essay written by Johnson in 2006 and now unearthed by The Guardian, Johnson also specifically argued that “there must be something about Islam that indeed helps to explain why there was no rise of the bourgeoisie, no liberal capitalism and therefore no spread of democracy in the Muslim world”.
According to him, the further the Muslim world had “fallen behind, the more bitterness and confusion there has been, to the point where virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq to Kashmir – involves some sense of Muslim grievance”.
When praising The Sistine Chapel, Johnson claimed that there is nothing like this in Muslim art of “that or any age”. He insisted that this is not “just because it is beyond the technical accomplishment of Islamic art, but because it is so theologically offensive to Islam”.
Tell Mama, an organisation which monitors anti-Muslim hate, described Johnson’s remarks as disconcerting and problematic, which they said reflect Johnson’s “lack understanding of Islam”.
The organisation bemoaned the fact that Johnson had failed to understand that “there are many Muslims whom Islam has inspired to produce some of the most beautiful art forms in their love for life and beauty”.
Tell Mama voiced hope that “Johnson works to support all communities in the future, and we are here to assist and support that.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), in turn, pointed out that many people would like to know if the front-runner tipped to become the next British PM still believed that “Islam inherently inhibits the path to progress and freedom”.
MCB added that many also wonder whether Johnson “still thinks Turkey should be admitted to the European Union, especially after the extraordinary and false claims made about Turkish and Muslim immigration during the Brexit campaign”.
“We of course are of the view that Islam has a role to play in progress and prosperity, be that in the Muslim world or here at our home in the west”, MCB underscored.
The view was shared by a number of Twitter users, with one netizen writing that “nothing this man [Boris Johnson] claims is even worth reading never mind commenting on”.
“Am I in a different world? When did it become okay for Presidents and potential Prime Minister to become racists”, another user noted.
Others, however, subscribed to Johnson’s point of view on the matter, claiming that “he is not wrong”.
In mid-January, Johnson told the radio station LBC that he did not believe that his last year’s column for The Daily Telegraph about women in burkas triggered “unfortunate” anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In his opinion piece, Johnson wrote, in particular, that he believed it was “absolutely ridiculous” that such women should “go around looking like letterboxes”.
The article triggered large-scale public debate and a UK Conservative Party probe into a breach of the party’s code of conduct by Johnson.