Big debate this week over whether Boris Johnson should apologise for his comments in a Telegraph article where he said Muslim women wearing burkas ‘look like letter boxes’ and compared them to bank robbers and rebellious teenagers.
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Despite arguing in the article that Britain should not ban the burka, he couldn’t resist cracking a few jokes over the garb.
Well he’ll be pleased to know that professional funnyman Mr Bean AKA Rowan Atkinson has come out to defend him.
Atkinson wrote in a letter to the Times:
As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson’s joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one.
All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.
You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required.
Atkinson has previous form here, having objected to The Racial and Religious Hatred Act introduced during Tony Blair’s government in 2007, which he claimed was an attack on free speech.
Atkinson said at the time:
To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom.
Well Mr Bean does have a point there. All religions should be open to criticism and there’s no reason why any one religion should be afforded more protection than another. I mean I don’t know that it was necessary for Boris to make those jokes but at the end of the day, that’s what they were – jokes.
The wider debate is over whether the burka should be banned in Britain as it has been in other parts of Europe. Boris was in fact defending a person’s right to wear a burka, even though there are others who believe defending the item, with its oppressive and violent misogynistic history, is no different from defending the confederate flag. Not to mention the issues re concealing identity (which others are not allowed to do) and integrating into wider society.
Let’s just hope the (scientifically proven) 10 best jokes in the world don’t come under the same scrutiny one day.