As the United Kingdom braces for new leadership under Boris Johnson, many fear that far-right rhetoric and right-wing nationalism and terrorism could continue to rise as minorities face even greater threats of domestic violence from neo-facist movements. Boris Johnson, who has a long history of Islamophobic and deeply troubling racist remarks, is only fueling the fire of hatred as he continues to go unchecked.
Here are the top 10 most Islamophobic and racist remarks by the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister:
Letterboxes and bank robbers
“It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
One of his most infamous remarks was when he compared Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab (full head covering) to letter boxes. Johnson was commenting on Denmark’s decision to ban the burka in 2018 when he continued to explain that he felt “fully entitled” to expect Muslim women to remove the head covering, especially if “they turn up looking like a bank robber”.
Centuries behind the West
“There must be something about Islam that indeed helps to explain why there was no rise of the bourgeoisie, no liberal capitalism and therefore no spread of democracy in the Muslim world … something caused them to be literally centuries behind.”
In an updated chapter from his book The Dream of Rome, Johnson claimed that the religion of Islam was the reason why the Muslim world is supposedly “centuries behind” the Western world. He continued to write: “the further the Muslim world has fallen behind, the more bitterness and confusion there has been..there are many shameful things about modern interpretations of Islam.”
“They say [Tony Blair] is shortly off to the Congo…and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down.”
In an open editorial piece in the Telegraph, Boris Johnson wrote horrifyingly racist remarks on certain peoples from the Commonwealth, describing the people of the Congo as having “watermelon smiles”.
“It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”
In the same piece in the Telegraph, Johnson used the word “piccaninnies” to describe Commonwealth citizens. This derogatory term is a racist slur used historically in North America to describe children of African descent.
Cannibalism and chief-killing
“For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph back in 2006, Johnson attempted to critisize the Labour leadership by insulting the country of Papua New Guinea, stating: “For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.” He was later forced to issue an apology.
Africa as a country
“Life expectancy in Africa has risen astonishingly as that country has entered the global economic system.”
Speaking at a Conservative Party conference in Birmingham in 2016, Boris Johnson referred to Africa as a single country when describing how the entire continent is lifting itself out of poverty, also stating that British values “continue to lift the world out of poverty”.
Malaysian women and university
“[Malaysian women] have got to find men to marry!”
At the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum, Johnson was accused of both extreme sexism and racism when he casually joked about the real reason behind Malaysian women going to university is to find husbands. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had stated: “Before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68% will be women entering our universities.”, to which Johnson interrupted saying that those women had to go to university because they “have got to find men to marry”.
Libyan dead bodies
“They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai. The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.”
At a Conservative party meeting in late 2017, Johnson made headlines again after commenting that Libya could be like the next Dubai if only they could “clear the dead bodies away”. He continued on to say, “there’s a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed…the only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away!”
Britain and colonialism
“The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty..the problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”
Writing for the Spectator in 2002, Johnson wrote horribly questionable remarks on the continent of Africa and past colonialism. He continued to write: “Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. Are we guilty of slavery? Pshaw. The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.”
Obama and Kenya
“The part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire” as reason for Obama removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office
Writing for The Sun, Johnson claimed that the supposed reason to why President Obama was removing a bust of Winston Churchill (which later turned out to be a false story) was because of Obama’s ancestral heritage. Johnson wrote: “Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
Let us hope that with Boris Johnson as the UK’s next Prime Minister, the country can instead come together even more to fight against racist bigotry, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism in the face of growing alt-right extremism.