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Rowan Atkinson hits the nail on the head yet again

These remarks are as apposite today as when they were first delivered in 2012. The Boris Johnson ‘burqa’ furore is actually not about burqas at all (nothing happened when Ken Clarke made very similar remarks in 2013), it is a nakedly obvious ploy to bring down the main political threat to Theresa May, by using profoundly illiberal notions that politically designated groups are beyond ridicule or criticism.

24 comments to Rowan Atkinson hits the nail on the head yet again

  • it is a nakedly obvious ploy to bring down the main political threat to Theresa May

    which, I profoundly hope, will backfire quite badly for her.

    Oft evil will doth evil mar.

  • Pat

    A slightly updated repost from Tim Newman’s blog
    Boris’s apology should be on the following lines:
    Sir, my reading of the Koran and the Hadith, confirmed to me by several Imams, showed the Burqa as not required by scripture.. I apologise for this, as I now realise Mrs. May and Mr.Lewis are in fact the world authorities on Islamic scripture, far superior to any Imam.
    Further I regret my implied view that black people from Somalia, white people from Chechnya and Bosnia,Arabs from Arabia or Parsees from Iran are not of the same race.
    Further I wrote opposing a ban on this garment, sadly without checking that a ban is now party policy, for which I also apologise.
    I would appreciate being informed why it is policy to ban something that is, according to the PM required by the Koran.
    Finally I withdraw my remarks as to the appearance of this garment. It is.clearly charming, and I look forward to seeing the PM wearing it in the house. Perhaps some other ladies , Ms Soubrey or perhaps lady Nugee might do so as well. perhaps Baroness Warsi could model it in the Lords?

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Meanwhile, the Guido Fawkes website has turned up a 2001 article from ‘The Guardian’ which contains some rather apposite passages:

    “The top-to-toe burka, with its sinister, airless little grille, is more than an instrument of persecution, it is a public tarring and feathering of female sexuality. It transforms any woman into an object of defilement too untouchably disgusting to be seen. It is a garment of lurid sexual suggestiveness: what rampant desire and desirability lurks and leers beneath its dark mysteries? In its objectifying of women, it turns them into cowering creatures demanding and expecting violence and victimisation (…) What is it about a woman that is so repellently sexual that she must diminish herself into drab uniformity while strolling down Oxford Street one step behind a husband who is kitted out in razor-sharp Armani and gold, pomaded hair and tight bum exposed to lustful eyes? (No letters please from British women who have taken the veil and claim it’s liberating. It is their right in a tolerant society to wear anything (…) – but that has nothing to do with the systematic cultural oppression of women with no choice.)” **

    Guess who the author of that distinctly Islamphobic-sounding piece was?

    Step forward, please, POLLY TOYNBEE, the arch-priestess of the (il)liberal left.

    Oddly, last time I checked, far from being dismissed in ignominy, she was still writing for ‘The Guardian’ and the metaphorical buckets of ordure being poured over ol’ de Pfeffel’s head were conspicuously absent from hers.

    Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. Or should that be Quod licet Polly, non licet Boris?

    ** Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/28/religion.afghanistan

  • CaptDMO

    From the US.
    So….what happened with “Reform Section 5”?

  • Paul Marks

    “Oft evil does evil mar” – I hope so Niall.

    Zerrin – the left (as you know) have a long practice of banning opinions and language that they themselves held and used only a few years ago.

    For example, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama used to be AGAINST “Gay Marriage” – now anyone (apart from a follower of Islam – “liberals” apply different rules to followers of Islam) who is against “Gay Marriage” is hounded from their jobs (with the fully support of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) – it was acceptable to be against something and then it is NOT acceptable. It was acceptable for Polly T. to use this language – and now it is NOT acceptable for Boris J. to use (much milder) language.

    The education system (the schools and universities) and the media (the BBC and so on) may have ways of squaring this circle in their minds – but to explore their minds too deeply risks madness. When a person looks too deeply into the void – it looks back into them.

  • Paul Marks

    Back to Niall’s point.

    Mrs May (and her allies) may have “just” squalid political motives – as Perry points out nothing happened when “Remainer” Ken Clarke made much the same comments in 2013 (the BBC, and “You Gov” and “The Observer” are all busy banging the “Remainer” drum today – boasting that their brainwashing is working and that most people would now be happy to stay as slaves of the European Union, the slavery that the accused BBC has always supported).

    However….. make no mistake…..

    If it becomes established that a person can not say that a costume makes people look like “letter boxes” and so on then Freedom of Speech is DEAD in this country.

    “But he can say this in private or down the pub – just not in a newspaper article” was the message of one ally of Mrs May (not exactly his words – but most certainly what he meant) – but the left will not be satisfied with “just” crushing Freedom of Speech in newspapers, they will want to do so in private as well.

    “You said that Islamic women look like letterboxes – we, Social Services, are going to have to take your children away, we can not have then brought up in such a HATE SPEECH environment” – INFORMERS will be able to destroy the lives of anyone, get them dismissed from their job, and have their children taken away from them.

    If Mrs May wins then the Frankfurt School of Marxism wins – even though she is NOT Frankfurt School herself, and may “only” have squalid political motives for her despicable conduct (such as her demand that Boris Johnson “apologise” for writing as normal British people speak).

    There can be no compromise with the education system (the schools and universities) and the “mainstream media” (the BBC AND the “private” television stations such as Sky News) the education system produces, as they wish to totally exterminate liberty – as does the Deep State bureaucracy, “Ofcom”, the “Electoral Commission” and-so-on.

    There is a lot more at stake here than the struggle against the despicable Mrs May.

  • For example, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama used to be AGAINST “Gay Marriage” – now anyone (apart from a follower of Islam – “liberals” apply different rules to followers of Islam) who is against “Gay Marriage” is hounded from their jobs (with the fully support of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) – it was acceptable to be against something and then it is NOT acceptable. It was acceptable for Polly T. to use this language – and now it is NOT acceptable for Boris J. to use (much milder) language.

    As is often the case George Orwell illustrated the point regarding the left’s eternally fluctuating morality of nothing in 1984.

    “Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia”

    As for Frau May, I pray that she is condemned to the Antenora of the 9th Circle of Hell, the fate of all traitors to country.

  • Snorri Godhi

    it is a nakedly obvious ploy to bring down the main political threat to Theresa May

    In the same way as the new censorship laws in Germany are an obvious ploy to prevent debate about Angela Merkel’s most fateful decision, i suppose. Not that Angela and Theresa were the first to use such ploys, of course.

  • pete

    Why has there been no fuss at all about Mr Corbyn’s recent appointment of Naz Shah to the shadow cabinet?

    With the opinion polls very close we could be just a general election away from having a person with a record of racist comments serving in a senior government role.

    But her political opponents in the Conservative Party, including those who claim to be appalled by Johnson’s comments, have remained silent.

    And so have all the country’s ‘liberal’ anti-fascists, though that isn’t surprising at all.


  • Korblimee

    Can someone tell me is it true that if a Muslim makes a pilgrimage to Mecca when they arrive they ALL must uncover their faces and heads as it is assumed that as everyone else is a Muslim, so they treat them as family. But over here they cover up because they see everyone else as infidels and unbelievers ( Kaffirs). If that is true then I think they SHOULD ban the burqa hijab etc.

  • staghounds

    Shockingly, it worked! Insulting someone is no longer a crime against the peace and dignity of the Crown!


  • Chip

    We will import vast numbers of people from the most backward and barbaric cultures on earth; suffer significant costs in terms of public finances, security and social trust; and you will be punished if you complain.

    If there’s a common characteristic of all UK political parties over the last couple decades, this is it.

  • Chip

    FWIW, I don’t believe the burka should be banned. A ban is just another manifestation of an authoritarian state already too drunk on power.

    And you wouldn’t need a ban if people were free to ridicule the ridiculous and the government had an immigration policy that served the national interest.

  • Mr Ed

    I would have thought that Mrs May, who rather banning things or people, would approve of a burka ban, after all, like encryption, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

  • Jacob

    The point of the burka is that it is an act of coercion. Don’t tell me women voluntarily don the burka because they like it. It is not so. Women are forced to wear a burka by their men-folk – fathers, brothers or husbands.

    The ideal would be to ban the act of forcing women to wear burkas. This is not possible, of course. Banning the burka is the next best thing, and is fully justified. If some Muslims think that women need to be forced to wear burkas – let them stay in countries that make it possible. Western countries and cultures have no obligation to support this Muslim enforcement, and rather have the obligation to support the women in their quest for freedom from burkas.

    It is a little similar to the quest of Southerners in the US to force Northern states to help maintain slavery. They wanted Northern States to accept Southerners travelling North with their slaves, and to help capture and return fugitive slaves.

    It is the custom, and the practice, to ban nudity in public spaces, in the West. I think this ban is acceptable to libertarians. Similarly we can ban burkas.

    So, Boris Johnson was wrong in his opposing the burka ban. We, in the West, do not need to bend backwards to accommodate what some claim (wrongly) to be Muslim custom.

  • Jacob

    The Danes banned burkas, the Swiss banned minarets. We, libertarians, don’t like bans. Fine. But, symbols matter. These acts are banning symbols of oppression. If no oppression existed anywhere these bans would be wrong. But, as it is, these symbolic bans serve a good purpose and are acceptable, IMHO.

  • Itellyounothing

    The point of the burka is that it is an act of coercion. Don’t tell me women voluntarily don the burka because they like it. It is not so. Women are forced to wear a burka by their men-folk – fathers, brothers or husbands.

    I think you will find the big push for women to conform and wear burkas ain’t coming from the menfolk… I will come from Mothers, Aunts, Sisters, Grandmothers.

    In societies which have Burkas, the male and female spheres of power are very well defined. Men do not stick their heads into the female sphere. In Saudi, if a women is without a burka in public, the man responsible for her pays the price.

  • Jacob, if British people were free to speak their minds about the burka, there would be no need to think of banning it. The PC idiots who hate Boris think the hammer of state power is the solution to every question. Polly Toynbee can call it a “sinister, airless little grille”, yet get none of the hatred directed at Boris for calling it a “letterbox”, because Boris made it wittily clear he was against banning the burka but even more against banning criticism of it, whereas Polly might demand banning the burka, or banning all criticism of it, or even banning both, but we – and the PC – can rely on this: she’ll always want to ban something.

  • if British people were free to speak their minds about the burka, there would be no need to think of banning it.

    This. A thousand times this.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Just for the record, here is a full transcript (made from the cleaned-up auto transcript) from Rowan Atkinson’s 9-minute speech quoted above:
    From: http://web.archive.org/web/20121221214158/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gciegyiLYtY
    Published on Oct 18, 2012

    Channel: reformsection5
    My starting point when it comes to the consideration of any issue relating to free speech is my passionate belief that the second most precious thing in life is the right to express yourself freely.

    The most precious thing in life, I think, is food in your mouth, and the third most precious is the roof over your head. But a fixture for me in the number two slot is free expression, just below the need to sustain life itself. That is because I have enjoyed free expression in this country all my professional life and fully expect to continue to do so.

    Personally I suspect I am highly unlikely to be arrested for whatever laws exist to contain free expression, because of the undoubtedly privileged position that is afforded to those of a high public profile. So my concerns are less for myself and more for those more vulnerable because of their lower profile, like the man arrested in Oxford for calling a police horse “gay”, or the teenager arrested for calling the church of scientology a cult, or the cafe owner arrested for displaying passages from the bible on a TV screen.

    When I heard of some of these more ludicrous offenses and charges, I remembered that I had been here before in a fictional context. I once did a show called “Not The Nine O’clock News”, some years ago, and we did a sketch where Griff Rhys Jones played constable Savage, a manifestly racist police officer, to whom I as his station commander is giving a dressing-down for arresting a black man on a whole string of ridiculous trumped-up and ludicrous charges.

    The charges for which constable Savage arrested Mr. Winston Kodogo of fifty-five Mercer Road were these: “walking on the cracks in the pavement”, “walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness” and one of my favourites “walking around all over the place”. He was also arrested for “urinating in a public convenience” and “looking at me in a funny way”.

    Who would’ve thought that we would end up with a law that would allow life to imitate art so exactly?

    I read somewhere a defender of the status quo claiming that the fact that the gay horse case was dropped after the arrested man refused to pay the fine, and that the scientology case was also dropped at some point during the court process was proof that the law was working well, ignoring the fact that the only reason these cases were dropped was because of the publicity that they had attracted. The police sensed that ridicule was just around the corner, and withdrew their actions. But what about the thousands of other cases that did not enjoy the oxygen of publicity, that weren’t quite ludicrous enough to attract media attention?

    Even for those actions that were withdrawn, people were arrested, questioned, taken to court, and then released.

    You know, that isn’t the law working properly. That is censoriousness of the most intimidating kind, guaranteed to have, as Lord Deere says, a chilling effect on free expression and free protest. Parliament’s joint committee on human rights summarised, as you may know, this whole issue very well by saying:

    “While arresting a protester for using threatening or abusive speech may, depending on the circumstances be a proportionate response, we do not think that language or behaviour that is mainly insulting should ever be criminalised in this way.”

    The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism is easily construed as insult by certain parties, ridicule easily construed as insult, sarcasm, unfavourable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy can be interpreted as insult, and because so many things can be interpreted as insult, it is hardly surprising that so many things have been, as the examples I talked about earlier show.

    Although the law under discussion has been on the statute book for over twenty-five years, it is indicative of a culture that has taken hold of the programs of successive governments that, with the reasonable and well-intentioned ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature – that is what you might call the new intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent.

    “I am not intolerant”, say many people – say many, softly-spoken highly-educated, liberal-minded people – “I am only intolerant of intolerance”, and people tend to nod sagely and say, “Oh yes, wise words, wise words”, and yet if you think about this supposedly inarguable statement for longer than five seconds, you realise that all it is advocating is the replacement of one kind of intolerance with another, which to me doesn’t represent any kind of progressive at all.

    Underlying prejudices, injustices or resentments are not addressed by arresting people. They are addressed by the issues being aired, argued and dealt with, preferably outside the legal process. For me, the best way to increase society’s resistance to insulting or offensive speech is to allow a lot more of it. As with childhood diseases, you can better resist those germs to which you have been exposed. We need to build our immunity to taking offence, so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise.
    Our priority should be to deal with the message, not the messenger.

    As president Obama said in an address to the United Nations only a month or so ago,”Laudable efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics or oppress minorities … The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech”.

    And that’s the essence of my thesis – more speech. If we want a robust society, we need more robust dialogue and that must include the right to insult, or to offend. As Lord Deere says, “The freedom to be inoffensive is no freedom at all.”

    The repeal of this word in this clause will be only a small step, but it will I hope be a critical one in what should be a longer term project to pause, and slowly rewind the creeping culture of censoriousness. It is a small skirmish in the battle, in my opinion, to deal with what Sir Salmon Rushdie refers to as “the outrage industry”. Self-appointed arbiters of the public good, encouraging media-stoked outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react.

    A newspaper rings up Scotland Yard. Someone has said something slightly insulting on twitter about someone who we think a national treasure. What are you going to do about it? The police panic and they scrabble around and then grasp the most inappropriate lifeline of all, section five of the Public Order Act, that thing where you can arrest anybody for saying anything that might be construed by anyone else as insulting.

    You know they don’t seem to need a real victim, they need only to make the judgment that somebody could have been offended if they had heard or read what has been said – the most ludicrous degrees of latitude.

    The storms that surround twitter and facebook comment have raised some fascinating issues about free speech which we haven’t really yet come to terms with. Firstly, that we all have to take responsibility for what we say – which is quite a good lesson to learn – but secondly, we’ve learnt how appallingly prickly and intolerant society has become of even the mildest adverse comment.

    The law should not be aiding and abetting this new intolerance. Free speech can only suffer if the law prevents us from dealing with its consequences. I offer my wholehearted support to the reform section five campaign. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

  • bobby b

    “FWIW, I don’t believe the burka should be banned. A ban is just another manifestation of an authoritarian state already too drunk on power.”

    All criminal laws and most civil laws ban something. Think of the thousands of such laws that were enacted with no such protestation of drunken power.

    Why does this ban, out of the thousands of bans that we adopt, deserve our ire? I can see one major distinction right away.

  • Paul Marks

    I repeat – Boris Johnson is AGAINST a ban on the burka, he is being persecuted for using light hearted language (the sort of language that British people used to use about most things – not just Islamic things).

    If the P.C. (Marxist) elite is allowed to prevent the use of normal language then all is lost (and they know that – which is why they try and do it).

    As for Mrs May and the other “Conservatives” who have gone along with the Marxists (the P.C. forces – or “Critical Theory” people as they call themselves now) against Boris Johnson – either they (Mrs May and co) have “just” squalid political motives (out to “get” Mr Johnson – as Perry suggests), or Mrs May and co really believe themselves in the Marxist concept of “Hate Speech” for which people should be forced to “apologise”. Either way Mrs May and co are unfit for office.

    “But they do NOT know it is Frankfurt School Marxism” – ignorance is no excuse.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    British people ARE free to speak their own minds about burkas, so long as they do it in their own homes, and no-one else can hear them. What’s the fuss?
    And is a burka a woman from Berkshire?