Boris Johnson, the politician who became popular with the public as the cuddly buffoon, has finally grown up. Having become synonymous with the ‘Boris bike’ as well as numerous gaffes, few people know exactly what Boris stands for. It’s safe to say that most Londoners effectively ignore him, but at this moment in time that remains difficult given his controversial article published in The Telegraph. Boris uses the sentencing of Lee Rigby’s killers as a backdrop to ask how we can prevent radical extremism, with the Telegraph providing imagery in the way of a depiction of the two men in court. The crux of Johnson’s argument is that the solution lies in removing the children of Muslim radicals from their parents and carers and placing them in care. Johnson’s ramblings show how uninformed and out of touch the Mayor of London really is and how ill-judged his comments are.
In the first place, Johnson missed the blindingly obvious when he chose Lee Rigby’s murder as a launch pad for his views, as both of his now convicted killers were born into what seems decent Christian families, radicalised by fringe elements. Not knowing this, Johnson then goes on to attack political correctness emanating from the left, which he argues support unsavoury cultural practices, including FGM. He questions the moral compass of people on the left using Harriet Harman and the NCCL’s affiliation with paedophile groups in the 70s, and rounds off with Islamic extremism. A closer reading of what Boris Johnson is really saying is incredibly revelatory. Firstly, this is as much an attack on the Left for their collusion with Muslims as it is on radical extremism. The political correctness that Boris speaks of vis-a-vis the left and FGM is peculiar, I have yet to hear leftist voices defending FGM, but there are an awful lot of people on the left who, alongside Muslims, are challenging Islamophobia, the erosion of civil liberties under the pretext of anti-extremism legislation and the effects of Tory-led austerity. It is also telling that Johnson doesn’t fail to mention that FGM is practiced by those predominantly from the Horn of Africa; the large number in Britain happen to be Somali; yet he conveniently omits that it has been British Somali women who have taken on the fight to eradicate FGM. Ultimately, the conflation of these wholly unrelated issues is designed to charge the emotions of the people the article appeals to leaving them with the impression that extremism is a cultural practice perpetuated by the political correctness of the amoral left.
Johnson confidently soldiers on to argue that the children of extremists are being taught a ‘nihilistic view of the world’ – a bold statement indeed, but what evidence does he have? Apparently he has been informed of at least ‘one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation.’ Thus the premise of his entire argument lies solely on one occurrence that incidentally refers to siblings. The fundamental reason for this poor reasoning lies in the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that children are being radicalised by their parents or carers. Boris Johnson has effectively invented a phenomenon that has no statistical backing.
Let us, for argument’s sake, entertain this episode of political madness. I wonder if Johnson plans on extending the scope of those whom he would be willing to condemn to a life in care. No doubt, there are more than a few people who would qualify if we are to follow through with his logic. Far right and neo-Nazi groups, Islamophobes, racists, anti-Semites and xenophobes of all kinds one would presume. Yet, Boris hones in on Muslim extremists. Would he have been so comfortable to espouse this view about the children of any of the aforementioned groups?
Boris’s comments may have hit us like a bolt from the blue, but maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised, after all he made some pretty unpalatable comments about Islam after the 7/7 bombings. Neither is ‘Boris the philanderer’ a notable being of moral rectitude.
But one still wonders what has motivated this outburst at this particular time? Whilst we cannot say for certain, Boris is first and foremost a politician. A Mayor of London who has been tipped to be the next leader of the Tory Party at that, this could easily be construed as a cynical attempt to better define his political views. It is interesting that people often view Boris as not quite part of the Tory party, but his comments indicates an attempt by the Tories to claw back support from UKIP and others on the right. Perhaps, they should be more concerned about Cameron’s aide Patrick Rock’s arrest relating to child porn who was ironically a part of the strategist team trying to find ways to rid the internet of child abuse.
Whatever his motivation, Boris isn’t an anomaly. His comments follow a particular pattern in which politicians, some sections of the media and various commentators have in different times sounded the alarm about groups within the Muslim community. There were first the widely reported fears of British Muslim students vulnerable to radicalisation by so-called hate preachers, where the former head of MI5 encouraged Britons to be the eyes and ears of the security forces and report their neighbours if they suspected extremism. Now that Boris calls for the children of extremists to be put into care, this creates the wholly dangerous perception that everyone in the Muslim community is in danger of radicalisation. This can only be regarded as scaremongering, as if Britain has been infiltrated by extremist Muslims ready to unleash their radical offspring onto society. This is what Britain has been reduced to, demonstrating how out of touch large numbers of the Tories are despite their vow to shake off the ‘nasty party’ image to better appeal to ethnic minority voters, including Muslims. It is also revealing that people who hold responsible positions such as Boris Johnson feel perfectly comfortable with expressing such reprehensible opinions so openly.
His views are certainly a far cry from his declaration that he is the first London Mayor “partly of Muslim extraction” when he addressed the Ninth World Islamic Forum last year to convince them that London was a good place for Muslims from all over the world to do business (anything goes for money!). However, whilst we castigate Boris and challenge his vile views, those of us who didn’t bother to vote in the Mayoral elections which saw Boris elected for a second term in London (which has approximately one million Muslims) should also carry some of the blame. This is an exacting lesson for all of us, that while we may all jump up in arms, this is the ultimate price we pay for political apathy and theological immaturity.