Being in Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro I missed the furore over Boris Johnson’s comments about burkas, and the opportunity to participate.
I did get lots of emails about it however. Communication by Royal Mail had almost dried up completely, until this week -that is, when the Boris Burka effect caught up and a batch of letters arrived on the subject; perhaps it just takes longer to get round to writing to your MP, finding a stamp and making it to the post box.
It is well covered ground. I wrote about it, in this column almost exactly two years ago (the article can still be found at http://www.desmondswaynemp.com/ds-blog/bhurkinis-barton-sea/
or simply use the search tool top right and enter ‘Burkinis’
I also recall Jack Straw, when he was a minister under Tony Blair, sounding-off about how uncomfortable he felt when a woman attended his surgery in a niqab with only a slit for her eyes.
(I digress, but as for the Islamic demand for ‘modesty’, having travelled extensively in the Middle- East, when a woman can only show off her eyes, it is amazing what she can make of them).
My view is unchanged: although, with the exception of a very few lucky individuals, most of us look at our best with all of our clothes on, I believe that people should be allowed to wear as little or as much as they please. So, I’m with Boris, in that I would not join calls to ban the burka, any more than I’d seek to ban naturism. I also agree with him however, in that I do not like them: I believe that they isolate their wearers from healthy social interaction, and that they are a symbol of male power over women.
Boris clearly gave offence, but holding a disciplinary enquiry in my political party is just absurd.
Within the range of terms that might give offence, I thought his use of language at the lower end of the scale.
The enjoyment of our right to freedom of speech, does from time to time incur the possibility of giving offence. Some have a lower threshold for taking such offence than others.
In the scale of things, I am much more concerned about our proper right to freedom of expression being eroded than I am to people taking offence.