In a dramatic scene on the floor of the House of Commons in 1939, Conservative Member of Parliament Leo Amery stood to reprimand his own party leader, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, by urging Labour’s opposition spokesman to “speak for England!”
Amery’s intervention was a memorable mark in history against the appeasement offered to Nazi Germany over the invasion of Poland, at Chamberlain’s pusillanimous behest.
Today, the British public are once again hotly tempered over another form of tyranny both on our doorsteps and in our midst: that of fundamentalist Islam, the consequences of which many people feel in their communities every day.
Earlier this week the former Mayor of London and recently departed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had the temerity to reflect public opinion on the matter of the burka — the facial covering worn by many Muslim women in the United Kingdom.
The illiberal, jarring item of clothing has been banned in several nations across Europe including Switzerland, Denmark, France, Belgium, and Austria.
Germany has banned face veils while driving, while the Netherlands has banned the clothing in the public square.
There are bans in place in regions like Lombardy, Novara, Catalonia, and even in Quebec in Canada.
Which is why while Boris Johnson MP’s refusal to apologize for his comments likening the burka to letterboxes or the attire of bank robbers is welcome, it doesn’t go far enough.
The MP for Uxbridge is a classical liberal, and it rubs him the wrong way to become prescriptive or have the state levy rules, over things like clothing.
But that shouldn’t prohibit him from the next best thing down from advocating for a ban on the face veil: a referendum on the matter, or at the very least a very open public consultation.
The Sky Data poll that came out after the comments in Johnson’s Telegraph column revealed that 60 percent of the public believe it was not a “racist” comment. That should have been starkly obvious to most people.
More interestingly, 59 percent of those polled said they back a burka ban and just 26 percent said they wouldn’t support such a measure.
With this in mind, many are inclined to echo Amery’s 1939 heckle, aimed at highlighting the Conservative government’s appeasement of a foreign tyranny.
Boris: speak for England.
Speak for the England whose towns and cities are blighted by Islamic fundamentalism.
Speak for the English who want their majority view represented in government policy.
Speak for the England which includes legal, law-abiding, well-integrated Muslims like Qanta Ahmed, who recently wrote for the Spectator:
Twenty years later, while Saudi Arabia is itself liberalizing, the niqab is increasingly adopted by Muslim women living in the West, often as an anti-Western pro-Islamist political statement opposing secularism. For this reason, Denmark has legalized the ban on the niqab – a move I strongly supported in Denmark’s leading newspaper Politiken. Women wearing a niqab in public in Denmark are now in violation of the law and can be forcibly removed from the public space. Most commendably, Danish law now prosecutes any individual compelling a Muslim woman or girl to wear the niqab.
Today, the adoption of the full-face veil, particularly in the modern secular world is far worse than looking like a letterbox. It’s both a symbol of cultural misogyny and a political marker for Islamist sympathies. The detractors of Mr Johnson would do better to consider their own role in marginalizing true, civil, pluralist Islam in favor of its anti-secular anti-democratic variant, Islamism.
Britain, whether sooner or later, has a historical track record of seeing down tyranny and eradicating from both within our midst and without.
In this instance, despite public support for the removal of the veil from British public life, we are falling behind our continental colleagues.
Johnson has done the hard part: saying the uncomfortable. The next step — representing the majority view of the electorate Johnson wants and needs on his side — shouldn’t be difficult.
Raheem Kassam is a fellow of the Middle East Forum, the Gatestone Institute, and the Claremont Institute. He is the author of the bestselling books ‘No Go Zones: How Sharia Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You’ and ‘Enoch Was Right: Rivers of Blood 50 Years On’
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.