The Boris Burqa Brouhaha

I feel the need to comment on the recent Boris bollox since it conflates several topics I’ve written about at length before. This tweet from @Whoozley sets the agenda fair enough:

“Banning” is generally wrong way to address any complex topic with divided opinions, and to be fair, that IS Boris’ substantive point.

Attacking the individual is generally wrong too – but that depends on freedoms and motivations (see complex). Attacking an issue by “mocking” archetype individuals – letter-boxes and bank-robbers – is kinda OK if you are the court-jester but not if you expect to be taken seriously as a politician. Being provocative in order to start a debate can be OK too – but this debate has already started. 9/11 provocative enough for you? What we need now are constructive contributions. It’s not a matter of “shutting down debate”, it’s a matter of proceeding responsibly. The “right to offend” comes with context dependent responsibilities. Boris has a track record when it comes to rhetorical irresponsibility and opportunism – it is for this he should be damned. (And of course with Boris and 2018’s populism, you could go well beyond this in to deliberate divisive agendas (*).)

Of course, the right to choose what to wear is not absolutely free in general. Muslim or not we have social mores on what is appropriate to wear / expose, where and when, body and face. See modesty more generally – always the elephant in the room in these debates. (And think bum-cracks and lard-arsed leggings, you name it. When it comes to freedom, the sky’s the limit, but not always appropriate. “Too much information” generally covers it.)

That’s all pretty general – appropriateness – true of so many issues.

It’s the final point that adds a distinct additional level of complexity here. That is the extent to which wearing Muslim body coverings is in fact a choice for the woman concerned. Before we even get to questions of religion and patriarchy, this is as complex as multiculturalism itself. The extent to which cultural & religious differences – symbols and practice – should be tolerated, supported, encouraged, moderated, segregated, integrated, etc, etc. Bigotry city for the overly simplistic.

As @Whoozley says, it is – “well complicated“.

(*) Or …

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[Post Note: And to illustrate the point …

Yes, Atkinson’s relative silence is significant. Joke or otherwise context matters. Baddiel gets it – see the Dankula case. Atkinson is however wrong with “you should only apologise for a bad joke”. We can’t all be court-jester. Your humour can be as offensive and edgy as you like, so long as it’s good – and so long as you are the court-jester. Come in Frankie Boyle. Come in Rod Liddle.

Boris (like Corbyn) is cynically emulating Trump no doubt encouraged by Bannon. “Whilst masquerading as a serious politician, I can break all the rules and take you all for fools.” That is the real offense. Rules are for the guidance of wise men and keeping the village idiot in their place. Political correctness is properly about how you choose to use language in politics, not about the topics you’re allowed to mention. It’s the choices you make that tell us about your intentions, not the words. The fact we can all play the fool, doesn’t mean we should. That’s insanity.

Oh and one more:

So what’s the fuss? The burqa? – see “it’s complicated”.]


Also published on Medium.

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