Burqa comments like Boris Johnson’s are pushing Muslims to reassert their identity
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Boris Johnson’s inflammatory remarks about women who wear the burqa have sparked outrage and fierce debate on an issue that was already highly emotive. Since the European Union referendum, community relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have become increasingly fraught. There have been rises in race and hate crimes, many of which have been Islamophobic in nature – with the targets mainly being women of Asian ethnicity, assumed to be Muslim.
foreign secretary’s words are an attempt to remain at the forefront of politics, amid the possibility of a Conservative party leadership contest.
If this is an attempt to grab headlines, Johnson’s tactics are a copy and paste of what worked so successfully for US President Donald Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Their campaign focused on evoking a sense of nationalism that had apparently been lost, and making contentious statements in the media that would provoke angry responses. Johnson appears to be in contact with Bannon who has endorsed him as a possible future Tory leader.
The success of the Trump campaign and the continued grassroots support the US president enjoys have illustrated that if politicians are able to create a shared scapegoat(s) that can be blamed for all social ills, then it doesn’t matter what the facts are. The narrative just needs to be repeated without pause.
The Trump administration’s ongoing criticism of Muslims, and his ban on travel from certain Muslim countries, has had an effect on the lives of Muslims in America. It has also led to an increase in hate crimes and targeting of Muslims in America.
aspirations. When politicians make statements like those Johnson did, they legitimise racism – or at the very least ridicule and harassment.
niqab. While this might seem inimical to welfare given the situation, this act demonstrates a well understood phenomena of groups under threat. When a group feels that their identity is being challenged, they work hard to protect it, often by reinforcing and reproducing acts that clearly define them. In the aftermath of 9/11, the global backlash against Muslims resulted in more young American Muslims adopting more visible Islamic dress – the hijab (headscarf) for women and beards for men.
Now, the ongoing and resurgent Islamophobia requires a more elevated step in identity affirmation. And that may be one of the reasons why the niqab is becoming more visible in society. This points to the ironic fact that it is relentless attacks on Muslims that are creating a more visible Muslim presence in the UK. And as this visibility grows so do attacks and further tensions. It is imperative for community relations that this destructive cycle of attack and defiance is broken soon.
Nilufar Ahmed, Senior Lecturer in Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences, Swansea University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
While some have tried to excuse Johnson’s comments – he referred to burqa wearers as letterboxes or bank robbers – this is not the first time he has made statements with overtly racist terminology. Some commentators have argued the former
Asserting identityAt the heart of all of this are the communities being used for collateral in the furthering of political
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