Recently the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, reached new levels ignorance and hypocrisy when he cited that young people and children that are being taught “crazy stuff” at home, i.e. being “radicalised” should be removed from their parents and put into care, as radicalisation in his view amounts to a form of child abuse. Additionally, Boris believed that previously he has been hindered from pointing out radicalisation (i.e. Islamic radicalisation) and other forms of abuse (often stigmatised as being synonymous with Islam) such as FGM and paedophilia due to political correctness from social, cultural and religious groups. What Boris is really meaning is the Muslim community are the source of these problems, which is what his tirade is really aimed at under the façade of concern for the general wellbeing of British Muslims. Following his comments, many took to social media outlets as Facebook and Twitter to vent their disgust, channelling this by way of sarcasm under the trending hashtag #SignsofARadicalBaby. Under the hashtag many posted tweets, often accompanied by pictures of Muslims doing ordinary things such as people praying, women wearing hijab etc.
The funny and ironic thing about this whole affair is that Boris seems to be oblivious to the fact that his statements are not only contradictory, but there is evidence to prove that radicalisation happens from sources outside of the household. Let us deconstruct.
What is an abhorrent view?
The Oxford dictionary defines the term “abhorrent” as something that is disgusting and repugnant often inspiring hate. Therefore an abhorrent view is a belief or opinion that is disgusting and repugnant inspiring a climate for hate to manifest in various forms. However, in spite of this definition, there is currently no legal standard or definition as to what constitutes an abhorrent view. Rather there is a societal consensus that some opinions held may be contrary to the ideas and values a majority of people in a given society may believe. From this, it can be implied that what constitutes an “abhorrent view” is something that has elements of subjectivity, as what could be abhorrent and undesirable to one individual could be desirable to another and vice versa. In the midst of classifying what amounts to an abhorrent view, one must also remember that an individual’s right to freedom of thought should not be intruded upon. As even though an individual’s views, thoughts and opinions may not be in consensus with what most people in society think, they still have the right to hold these beliefs and therefore removing a child from their parents because of this may breach their right.
Furthermore, if in a hypothetical scenario the statements made by Boris were to be implemented, then would not most parents and guardians have their children taken from them? That would result in many care homes being overcrowded, often needlessly, with a lot of people having checks and balances upon their thoughts. Surely this would suppress the freedom of ones thought, something which is dichotomous to Western liberal and secular views regarding freedom of speech, thought and expression.
Separating rhetoric from reality:
Boris Johnson seems to deny the fact that his statements do not reflect the realities of the events that have transpired. For example, if we use this statement and apply it to instances of terrorist acts committed and those thwarted over the last 10 years, you will actually laugh at his ignorance his displayed. The killers of Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby, Michael Adebowale and Michel Adebolago, were converts to Islam with neither of them having parents that were Muslim – they were born-again Christians. Therefore they could not have been subjected to indoctrination or radicalisation by their parents, rather they were radicalised by external factors such as joining particular fringe groups and listening to lectures offering a direction of Islam not shared by the majority of Muslims. If anything, both the parents of these men were repulsed by the ideas and viewpoints held by their sons. Similarly, with the perpetrators of the July 2007 London bombings, they also were victims of being indoctrinated and radicalised by outside sources. Two of the perpetrators, Muhammed Sidique Khan and Germaine Lindsay, had loved ones who spoke out condemning their actions and also not having knowledge of the fact they were being radicalised. Additionally Farida Patel, the mother-in-law of Muhammed Sidique Khan, is said to have been devastated by the actions of her son-in-law.
Although more examples can be advanced, the few given are testimony to the fact that the main source of religious radicalisation does not come from parents teaching their children such notions. Rather these ideas are developed through external sources. Therefore, the statements of Boris Johnson do not correspond with facts pertaining to those that have committed terrorist acts. Furthermore, the hypocrisy exemplified by Boris Johnson is evidenced in his targeting of the Muslim community. Boris fails to consider the other forms of child abuse such as paedophilia, inter-sibling abuse and the impact racist and xenophobic parenting has upon fostering a climate for acts of violence to be committed against members of the British public. But as per usual, if these acts are committed by people who are not Muslim, their ethnicity and religion will not be highlighted as reason for why these instances occur.
Double standards & Ignoring Deeper issues
While it is an undeniable fact that religious radicalisation is a concern in British society, the same concern should be expressed for other types of social ills permeating as a result of negligent parenting. Recently a 12-year-old boy who, upon viewing hard-core pornography with his friends (which ignited his desire to implement what he saw on his sister), walked free from court after pleading guilty to rape, two counts of indecent assault and inciting a child to engage in sexual intercourse. The district judge, upon hearing that the boy promised not to do it again, deemed him not to be a danger to society and that keeping him in custody would “tear the family apart”. He told his father that the youngster would also be placed on the sex offenders register for two and a half years. If anything, many would argue contrary to what the judge said and agree that the boy should be taken by the social services and indeed may present a danger to the rest of society in a plethora of ways.
Firstly, if he continued to view such material, he could pose a threat in school as due to becoming desensitised to pornography it could result in acts of rape being committed against another pupil. Instances like this are proof that in our society, where access to indecent material is made easily available to people they become desensitised to viewing such things, this can culminate into acts of abuse and violence becoming common. As a result, this jeopardises the well-being and safety of children and adults alike. But somehow because this is not an illustration involving Muslims, Boris is being selective as to whose crimes should be amplified. Additionally, children that are raised in environments in which their parents hold views similar to those of the English Defence League or the National Front thus being racially radicalised, should also deserve attention. The BBC Three documentary entitled “EDL Angels” showed a teenager who lived in a household where many members held unfavourable sentiments towards Muslims, in which their views had some influence in shaping her opinion about Muslims in her local area. Furthermore, a 19 year old soldier was recently spared jail as he posted a picture on social media with racially derogatory comments towards those of Indo-Pakistani descent. The grounds for his exoneration were due to him growing up in a racist family, all he knew was to harbour towards dislike other races. Now, does this not sound hypocritical in that such an individual who is capable of reasoning, and harboured what Boris and most people in society would regard as an abhorrent view was absolved from responsibility for his actions? If we applied the same facts to that of a Muslim, it would be more than likely the case that the Muslim defendant would not be absolved of blame for his or her viewpoints.
The irony of the examples of those who were non-Muslim and held abhorrent views is that Boris in his statement seemed to disregard them, but also the fact that in these instances such people also pose a threat to cohesion in Britain’s racially plural society. Such people have the capacity to commit violent offences against racial and religious minorities thereby fostering a climate for hatred to manifest into acts of terrorism. But again, Boris developed convenient amnesia to highlight this fact.
In analysing Boris Johnson’s statements and whether they hold any tenability, there is one thing I would like to leave as a reminder, especially to those who sympathise with the views of Katie Hopkins regarding private education:
“It does a fool no good to spend money on an education, because he has no common sense.” – Proverbs 17:16