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Boris’s No Apologies Tour

As UD always says, when it comes to the burqa, don’t go there.

If you’re one of the few remaining countries in Europe that don’t ban it – if you’re England – and you don’t want it to be banned (“you” here is your political establishment), do not make an issue of it. Because making an issue of the burqa will immediately uncover the fact that significant majorities in your country would like it banned.

Making an issue of it will encourage citizens to look at neighboring countries, where orderly and effective bans have been implemented.

If you keep it quiet, if you don’t talk about it, the burqa will be an irritant; it will be intimidating; it will be an upsetting sign of the erasure of women within a culture that thinks of itself as liberal and egalitarian… it will be many things, but it will not be front and center, because there are other things to think about.

If on the other hand you allow the provocative language of Boris Johnson, who wrote a recent opinion piece saying juvenile things about burqas, to provoke you, then you’ve fallen into a very bad trap. Your loud and insistent offense-taking will accomplish one thing: It will move efforts to ban the burqa in your country forward.


The irony of course is that along with his juvenile remarks Johnson came out against a burqa ban; but rather than quietly count him among their (childish) allies, the anti-banners have reviled him as an enemy of all right-thinking people and demanded an apology, a shunning, a banishment, blah blah.

And see what happens when you do that? When you make a big deal of the burqa? When you hurl ridicule of it out of polite society?

The Burka Looks Ridiculous,
and Those Who Defend it Do
Muslim Women Like Me No Favours

headlines a Telegraph article in which Suad Farah responds to Johnson not with rage and condemnation, but with gratitude for his having brought the burqa to commentary-central:

[T]he growth of young women wearing it in the UK is concerning, and it’s something we all need to talk about.

Oh right – even though all anti-banners begin all of their articles by noting the absurdly, vanishingly, small number of women who wear the burqa, their numbers are actually growing, aren’t they… I forgot about that…

This naive notion that, if we just leave the burqa alone, a natural evolution toward democratic values will occur among burqa-wearers, reminds UD of poor David Ben-Gurion’s confident prediction “that the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel would slowly disappear…, melding into the assertively modern Zionist project. The opposite … has happened.”


[T]he temperature around this issue is rising and if anything the debate has to go far deeper. There are plenty of people who are very angry about these issues and that could have been mitigated if there had been more public debate.


The burqa is an obvious symbolic and real burden on free societies, and if you let the burden sit quietly and simply bother you occasionally, you can ignore it for a long time. If, on the other hand, you let provocateurs like Boris Johnson force you into language that suggests you’re fine with erased women on your streets, I promise you all hell’s gonna break loose, and you’re going to find yourself with a ban before you know it.

The more honest route, since burqa bans, UD believes, are the wave of the future all over Europe (and all over Canada), the route that doesn’t exhibit bad faith, is simply to state what you quite legitimately believe and act on it: The woman-erasing burqa is a bridge too far for any self-respecting democracy. Ban it.

Margaret Soltan, August 9, 2018 12:40PM
Posted in: democracy, end the erasure of women

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2 Responses to “Boris’s No Apologies Tour”

  1. Polish Peter Says:

    Maybe it would have been better for Boris to say it in Greek:

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Completely charming.

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