COMMENT: Face covering is a personal choice, not a political one

It's a typical Boris Johnson distraction technique '“ turning up at the end of his driveway to offer the waiting reporters cups of tea, but saying nothing about his latest controversy as he does so.

Monday, 13th August 2018, 6:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 3:22 am

So what do we get? Stories of Boris the buffoon, all flyaway hair and rumpled clothing refusing to comment on the matter and making jokes about being on '˜a humanitarian mission' to help the reporters.

And why were they there? Because Johnson has remained resolutely tight-lipped following the publication of a newspaper column in which he said women in burkas looked like '˜letter boxes' or '˜bank robbers'.

He lobs the grenade and then steps back from the mess he's caused.

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This is arguably the politics of the dog whistle. It feeds into the Islamophobia of the far-right while Johnson can stand back and claim that he meant no such thing. It is a tactic President Donald Trump has used to great effect in the United States.

Johnson is a politician who apparently aspires to lead our country as prime minister. And as a former foreign secretary you would think that he of all MPs would be aware of the cultural sen sitivities around the issue of face-coverings.

But he has proved repeatedly that he is deaf to, or happy to ignore,  these and similar sensitivities for his own ends. He surely knew of th e potential effect of his words and the ensuing row.

It does however go to a far wider issue. Like it or not, we are a multicultural society, and there are a lot of women who choose to wear the burka, niqab or hijab of their own volition.

It is an area littered with potential landmines when trying to discuss it without it descending into a slanging match or accusations of racism being thrown around.

As Basira Ajmal says in our story today: '˜Stop forcing and telling women what to wear and what to  not.'