Two of Britain’s most prominent politicians have come under fire this week for supposedly promoting division and hatred.
But for Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, the circumstances surrounding their respective controversies have shared little else in common.
Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, has seen his estate swarmed by media and his name plastered all over tabloid headlines following comments he made in an August 5th Daily Telegraph column.
In his article, Johnson sharply criticizes the Muslim practice in which some women wear burkas or niqabs, traditional garments that cover most of the face and often reveal only the eyes. He writes that “it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
Of course, Johnson has never attempted to pass a burka ban or any other measure restricting religious attire. Nor has he ever even advocated for such a position.
In fact, his Telegraph article explicitly denounces Denmark’s burka ban, as Johnson declares that “I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any — invariably male — government to encourage such demonstrations of ‘modesty.’” His headline reads, in no uncertain terms: “Denmark has got it wrong.”
But Johnson’s choice of words, evidently, carries more weight than the actual argument he makes.
Jennifer Williams of Vox condescendingly sneered that “Some conservative white men in Britain are obsessed with what Muslim women wear on their heads.” An article in the Guardian described Johnson as “parroting racist tropes.” Matthew d’Ancona called him “deplorable” in the Irish Times.
While the British media has spent the last few days rebuking Johnson, news about Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has seemingly slipped under the radar.
On Monday, the AP reported that Corbyn is alleged to have laid a wreath on the graves of Palestinian terrorists widely credited with orchestrating the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. While Corbyn acknowledged his presence at the ceremony, he denies being “actually involved.”
Regardless of the level of Corbyn’s participation, his mere attendance at such an event is controversial in itself. But as of this writing, the party leader has issued no apology, instead arguing in an interview with Sky News that he attended the ceremony “in memory of all those who have died.” Corbyn stated clearly that “I’m not apologizing for being there at all.”
While Boris Johnson’s words are mild compared to the actions of his Labour counterpart, they have received a disproportionate amount of media attention in the UK and beyond. No matter what one thinks of Johnson or Corbyn, the last few days have made it clear that when it comes to burkas and terrorists, words speak louder than actions.