Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson at one point compared women wearing Muslim veils to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” – something that provoked scorn from the left.
As Boris Johnson was watching the results roll in on election night, his father was defending his widely-criticised burqa comments on live TV.
Stanley Johnson, a former Tory MEP, made the case on Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night that women should be prohibited from wearing face-covering veils on some occasions.
He said of his son: “Most of the things that have been said against him have taken the article out of context, and I don’t want to go further down this route, but I will say, if I was a female fighter jet pilot, I would expect someone to say ‘don’t wear a burka’.”
He got heckled by the audience and called out by other speakers on the panel.
Comedian Nish Kumar interrupted with an angry “what are you talking about?” and held his head in hands, while Robert Rinder of the Judge Rinder courtroom show said: “You’d expect them to be qualified. That’s the only thing that matters.”
“Have you ever flown a plane?” Johnson countered, with Rinder hitting back: “Don’t be so absurd.”
“How dare you sit there and use language like that. That is disgraceful and it shouldn’t require Nish to have to defend that.”
Johnson went on to use the example of the courtroom, where people “are required to show their faces”, to which Rinder replied that there are “systems in place that guarantee the dignity of everybody”.
What does British law say about Muslim veils?
While several European countries have effectively outlawed face-covering veils in public places, there is no such ban in the UK. Schools, however, were given the right to ban schoolchildren from wearing the garments in 2007, following several court cases filed by Muslim students. Police also have the power to remove the veil if they believe it is being used as a disguise.
The niqabs, which cover the face and leave the eyes uncovered, and burqas, which cover the entire body with a mesh screen over the eyes, are also allowed in courts. In 2016, then-president of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger said that women who wear veils should be asked to remove them when giving evidence in criminal cases if there is “any question of credibility”.
According to latest polls dated 2017, 48 percent of Brits would support a ban against wearing a face veil, compared with 42 percent who would oppose it.
What does Boris Johnson think of the veils?
Writing in The Telegraph in 2018, Boris Johnson argued that the burqa is an “oppressive” garment but refused to support a total ban because he thought it would be construed as a statement about Islam.
Johnson added that “it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
Further in the column, he wrote: “If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.”
Johnson faced much criticism from the Muslim community and from the Labour party, but refused to apologise for his comments. An independent panel investigated them and found no breach of the Conservative Party’s conduct. The panel found that Johnson was “respectful and tolerant” and it was okay to use “satire” to make his point.
With the final results still being tallied, it is already clear that the Tories have won the election in resounding fashion. The Conservative Party has won at least 358 seats out of 650 – an absolute majority in Parliament and their best result since 1987 – while the Labour suffered a historic defeat with 202 seats.
This clears the way for Brexit to happen as early as January.