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Is the UK’s New PM Boris Johnson Good On Counter-Extremism?

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Former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson (Photo: Chatham House / Flickr - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
UK’s new PM Boris Johnson (Photo: Chatham House/Flickr/CC 2.0)

A look at the record of UK’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson

Britain’s new Prime Minister is 55-year-old Boris Johnson. A former journalist, the mop-haired Johnson built his political reputation on two successful terms as mayor of London. His foppish, bumbling persona endeared him to the public, and he gained a broader following than the traditional upper-class conservative base.

While his premiership will be defined by how he handles Britain’s exit from the European Union (approved in a landmark referendum two years ago), we will dig into his record on extremism.

 

As Foreign Secretary, Johnson Supported the War on Terror

While foreign secretary Boris Johnson slammed the notion that the UK’s foreign interventions caused Islamic extremism. In a 2017 speech titled “The Struggle Against Islamist Terror: How Global Britain is Helping to Win,” Johnson highlighted the many countries such as Sweden, Belgium or Japan which were targeted by Islamist terrorists despite those countries not getting involved in Middle Eastern conflicts.

He also announced increased expenditure for counter-terrorism, including adding more armed police and allocating over $600 million more to GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence service.

Prior to become foreign secretary, Johnson supported then Prime Minister David Cameron in voting to join American-led airstrikes against ISIS in December 2015.

 

Johnson Worsened a Diplomatic Crisis With Iran

In 2016, Iran seized dual Iranian-British national Nazanin Ratcliffe while she was on a visit to see family in Iran. The regime accused her of espionage and arrested her.

Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary, worsened the crisis by publicly stating in the House of Commons that she had been training journalists. Her family had been insisting she was merely in Iran on vacation and was not carrying out any activity relating to her work for the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

Johnson’s statement was later cited by the Iranian regime in their list of charges against Ratcliffe. She was found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the Iranian regime and sentenced to five years in prison.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has now joined with the family of Matthew Hedges, an academic who was imprisoned for seven months in the United Arab Emirates to demand action. Along with the families of other Britons detained abroad, they are appealing to Johnson to strengthen the law to protect British citizens abroad from unjust imprisonment.

Johnson Is Considering Giving Amnesty to Illegal Immigrants

In a speech in the House of Commons, the new prime minister said the government should consider a large scale amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in the country for a long period of time without breaking laws.

He first raised the issue while foreign secretary under the previous prime minister, Theresa May, but the proposal didn’t go anywhere. The number of illegal immigrants who could become citizens under such a scheme is thought to be 500,000.

Campaigners immediately hit back against the notion. “The idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants is a non-starter,” Alp Mehmet, chairman of the Migration Watch think tank told The Sun.

“Such a scheme will reward people with no right to be here, encourage future illegality and will be costly.” There is also the fear that mass amnesty would undermine Britain’s security by potentially importing extremists without proper vetting.

 

Johnson Has Been Accused of Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused multiple times in the past of anti-Muslim bigotry. In 2007, he wrote an essay appendix to his book The Dream of Rome, titled, “And Then Came the Muslims,” which blamed a “fatal religious conservatism” for putting the Islamic world “literally centuries behind.”

He went on to add “virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq to Kashmir – involves some sense of Muslim grievance.”

In 2018, he was accused of “ugly and naked Islamophobia” by the Shadow Equalities Minister Minister Naz Shah over comments he made about Muslim women who wear burqas, whom he referred to as looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers.”

The ex-chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin, previously interviewed by Clarion Project, was expelled from the Conservative Muslim Forum in June after raising doubts over Johnson’s moral fitness to be prime minister in an interview.

Johnson Called Trump “Unfit for Office” Over No-Go Zones

In 2015, Trump was running for office and Boris Johnson was mayor of London. Trump made comments alleging that parts of London were so radicalized that the police fear for their lives.

Boris struck back, also opposing Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from problematic terror regions from entering the United States.

“What he’s doing is playing the game of the terrorists and those who seek to divide us,” Johnson said in 2015 according to Business Insider. “And I have to say, when Trump says that there are ‘no-go’ areas in London, he’s betraying stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit for the office of the presidency.”

As prime minister, Johnson is now seeking a close relationship with Trump and the United States. Trump, for his part, has praised Boris, saying he “will be great” as prime minister and calling him “Britain Trump.”

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org