Boris Johnson’s burqa comments are the latest in a “legacy” of him having a problem with Islam, says imam Ajmal Masroor.
Johnson has been reported to the Equalities Commission for his comments.
“I think what he did wrong, is a legacy he has. He’s said that Islam is the problem, and Islamophobia is a natural reaction to Islam.
“He said woman who wear burqa look like letterboxes. All of these things indicate something very simple, he has a disdain for Islam. If he’s saying he has a problem with Islam, keep it as criticising the religion.”
Masroor is referring to an article Johnson wrote in the Spectator in 2005 where he wrote that the Koran provokes Islamophobia.
'Boris Johnson is a very influential person'
“Boris Johnson isn’t an ordinary person, he’s our former Foreign Secretary, he’s a Prime Minister in the making in the eyes of some people, he’s a very influential person. He writes a column in the Telegraph newspaper.”
Their debate then descended into who has a right to be “offended” by the clothes they see women wearing.
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“I’m offended by a person in a burqa or a niqab. Do I have the right to have imams apologise to me for seeing that?” asked Hartley-Brewer.
“People are demanding that Boris apologise for words that accurately, if not very pleasantly, describe people wearing the actual garment, but I’m not allowed to be offended by people wearing the actual garment, do you see how people find that a bit strange?”
“No, because you’re comparing an apple and a pear,” Masroor said.
“What you see with your eyes you have a choice to walk away.”
“No I don’t, not if I’m sitting on a train opposite a woman wearing a burqa or a niqab.”
'If I call Boris Johnson a mophead I'm being insulting'
Masroor used the example of a woman being “scantily-dressed” - which he had also brought up earlier in the conversation.
“If a woman was walking around scantily-dressed, do I have the right to not see them?” he asked.
“Do you think a woman should walk around scantily-dressed?” Harley-Brewer challenged him.
“No I don’t,” he said. “I think for example, we already have a rule in this country and if you’re walking around scantily-dressed you could arrested for it.
“If you’re walking into parliament scantily-dressed I don’t think that would be allowed.”
Hartley-Brewer claimed the burqa “is not an innocent piece of cloth. It’s a statement of political ideology rather than religion”, to which Masroor challenged her: “Have you spoken to [every woman who wears one]?”
“People have a choice, people can wear whatever they want to wear, and that’s what we’re celebrating,” Masroor said.
“I have personal likes and dislikes, I should keep them to myself… But if I call Boris Johnson a mophead for his hairstyle, if I call people in short clothes tarts, I’m being insulting deliberately.”
He also said he “personally [does] not support wearing a face covering” but that the choice is the woman’s.