Clothing matters. What we wear send signals to those around us. This is why we don’t wear track suit bottoms to a wedding, leggings to a job interview (unless it is for a sports store) or a black suit to the beach. It is the reason people get ‘dressed up’ for a night out and dress down when at home. Clothing matters.
So, when a woman ‘chooses’ to wear a burqa, she is sending a message and that message is, first, I don’t want you to see my face. She is saying you are not permitted to see her face for ‘religious reasons’ or reasons of modesty.
In what other society or circumstances are people permitted to hide their faces? Surgeons wear masks when operating to combat germs. Police officers in Saudi Arabia cover the eyes and most of their face because they believe themselves to be above the law and above the people. It is rare that people cover their faces in public for the public good.
The burqa is anti-social because covering your face is anti-social. We also know that some women have little choice in wearing it and we know that women who do wear it are saying, I have little interest in integrating in this society. I shall cover my face despite the fact it is anti-social. This should not be permitted in a liberal democracy.
It is an important part of communication to be able to read people’s facial expressions. Some rely on lip reading for communicating – the burqa undermines all of this. Yet our pathetic, lily-livered Prime Minister and indeed Boris Johnson himself do not believe the burqa should be banned in public. It should be, and there is public support for a ban.
The biggest problem with Boris Johnson’s article is not the language he used, although I wouldn’t use it myself. It is this sentence: ‘The burka and the niqab were certainly not always part of Islam. 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.’
Oh, to be this blasé about our liberal democracy. Oh, to be this naïve about Islamism. This is why Boris Johnson should never, ever be PM. His incompetence is almost as bad as his lack of principle, but his sheer lack of will when it comes to the tough issues such as Islamism is his biggest problem.
Johnson thinks this will just all fade out, that fewer women will wear the burqa or niqab because . . . Because what exactly? Because this is Britain, because we have a right to a liberal democracy where people do not go around covering their faces on a daily basis? No, liberal democracies must be defended. Take a look at some photos of Cairo University from the 60s: all the women are in Western garb. Then look at universities in London today, 2018. There will be a lot more burqas there than there were even in Cairo University in the 60s.
The truth is the arc of history does not always stretch ever forward to the hinterland of liberty and democracy. The generation of Muslim immigrants who came to Britain two or three decades ago never wore the burqa as far as I am aware. The next generation are far more eager to adopt it. But Johnson seems completely ignorant of this fact.
The burqa should not be worn in public. The fact that we may have to use State power to enforce the norm that people must show their faces when communicating and going about their daily business is bad enough. The fact that neither the PM nor Johnson seem to be willing to take the necessary action to enforce this norm is even worse.
(I discussed this on Vanessa Feltz yesterday, at 1:08.)