The new UK culture secretary has been accused of Islamophobia for her views on Muslim women and the description of the burqa as a “medieval” dress code.
Nadine Dorries, 64, was appointed to a senior government post this week as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet shakeup.
Like Johnson, he has a history of making controversial statements on a variety of topics. In 2018, when Johnson, then MP, wrote in a now infamous newspaper column that the burqa is “oppressive” and that the women wearing it looked like “bank robbers” and “mailboxes,” Dorries called for a total ban – veil. facial.
“I am very disappointed in Boris because he did not go further and used that newspaper article to call for a total ban on a dress code, a medieval dress code, which was designed to cover up the beauty of women and their bruises.” she told Sky News, suggesting that the garment was used to hide scars from domestic abuse.
“Women should be able to choose what they wear, and many of these women cannot choose. Like I said, they are not even allowed to choose who to marry.
“Many of them are not even allowed to keep their genitals,” he added, referring to female genital mutilation (FGM), a prohibited practice in the UK. Female genital mutilation predates Islam and Christianity, but is carried out by a minority of followers of various religions.
Around the same time, Dorries shared her views online, tweeting: “A society that celebrates gay pride and embraces gay marriage cannot be expected to live harmoniously when it approves of the repression of women forced to cover up, segregate and become invisible “.
When challenged by Twitter user Aleesha Khaliq, Dorries referred to Muslim women wearing burqas in Britain, saying: “They are segregated and repressed. It is a medieval costume that has no place in today’s liberal society. No progressive country should tolerate it. “
Of the roughly three million Muslims in Britain, it is widely understood that very few women wear the full veil, although there are no official statistics.
But the garment, which is banned in other parts of Europe, occasionally captures national attention when it is commented on by politicians or public figures.
Khaliq, a journalist, told Al Jazeera that Dorries’ comments were “really disappointing” but not surprising.
“We have Boris Johnson who has made Islamophobic comments and now Dorries [as culture secretary]”She said.” We have been legitimizing Islamophobia from the top down for so long that it is now normal.
“It is dangerous because she was actively defending the burqa ban. It is worrying that a high-ranking government figure may dictate what a minority of women choose to wear. Will you bring it up again? “
At the time of publication, Dorries had not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
Fatima Rajina, a researcher at De Montfort University’s Stephen Lawrence Research Center, said her remarks were “in keeping with the culture within the Conservative Party and with Boris Johnson, who has made similar derogatory and Islamophobic comments describing Muslim women.”
She told Al Jazeera: “The very idea of a liberal society is based on choice, but when Muslim women actively choose to wear clothing that aligns with their religious expressions, this choice is suddenly framed within the ‘modern’ versus binary. ‘medieval’. These made-up culture wars rely on Muslims and other racialized people to spur the prominence of politicians who otherwise appear incompetent. “
Dorries has a history of engaging in divisive debates.
In 2013, she voted against gay marriage, a move she later called her “biggest regret” as a deputy. She has proposed stripping abortion providers of their counseling role, advocated for the abortion time limit to be lowered, and strongly supported Brexit. He has criticized “left” journalists and the BBC.
In 2017, he tweeted: “Snowflakes on the left are killing comedy, tearing down historical statues, taking books out of colleges, simplifying panto, taking Christ out of Christmas and suppressing free speech. Sadly, it must be true, history repeats itself. It will be the music next. “
A spokesperson for the UK’s runnymede trust racial equality think tank told Al Jazeera that Dorries’ appointment carries weight, “given the comments made by the new minister in the past about the burqa. We regret the lack of dialogue when addressing such comments, as we do with other similar instances of British politicians from across the political spectrum. “
“It is important that politicians from across the political spectrum demonstrate their commitment to racial equality. We hope the new culture minister will address the comments made earlier and take action to celebrate the diversity we are fortunate to have in Britain. “