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Britain’s conservative Prime Minister Theresa May is no friend of conservative Christianity. May voted in favor of same-sex marriage in 2013. May tweeted her congratulations, when Ireland voted in favor of killing babies, aka abortion.

Mother Theresa of Downing Street, who once voted against gay adoption and lowering the age of consent for homosexual acts, has been on a journey more akin to C. S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress than to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

May’s counterfeit conservative government describes biblical sexual morality as “hateful” in the Wilton Park report. It blames Protestant evangelical churches for spreading “hate-filled messages”. It wants evangelical Christians in the Global South to reinterpret the Bible and accept LGBTI ideology. It calls for “challenging the interpretation of sacred texts”.

Unsurprisingly, it shoves hardcore feminism down the gullets of Christians in Commonwealth countries. “If the Bible is misinterpreted or mistaken on women, the same arguments will apply to LGBTI+,” it concludes and urges non-Western Christians to use a queer hermeneutic to interpret the Bible. The report also castigates western missionaries for “heteropatriarchy” and “an abhorrence of homosexuality”; a theme echoed by Mrs. May, when, in a brazen act of neo-colonialism she lectured the leaders of 35 Commonwealth nations on how she deeply regrets Britain’s legacy of anti-gay laws.

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A foundational principle of Conservativism is limited government. The State should keep its nose out of most things—and let its people enjoy freedom from governmental interference. But May’s Tory government has thrust itself into the realm of religion, dangerously transgressing boundaries separating Church and State.

May wants to impose State-regulated liberal Christianity on Britain and the Commonwealth, though that may as well be atheism for all the meaning it contains. But, when it comes to Islam, May flip-flops from liberalism to extremism and welcomes a radical Salafism into the public square. In an act of schizophrenic double-dealing, she thumbs her nose at liberal Muslim scholars who are warning of the dangers of a militant Islam based on a literal interpretation of Islamic religious texts.

It is this cognitive dissonance that is at the heart of the Boris Johnson vs. Theresa May debate on the burqa. Politicians and the secular commentariat have missed the simmering cauldron for the teapot, i.e. the discussion on the burqa and other forms of “modest” Islamic dress for women is a fierce in-house intra-religious debate that has bedeviled Islam for centuries.

At the heart of the debate is the struggle for the soul of Islam and the clash of theologies to find the purportedly non-mythical brand of Islam that is compatible with the values of Western democracy. The struggle has been played out in Islamic countries like Turkey, where “the use of the headscarf in public spaces represents less a personal choice than a political attack on the fabric of the secular state”. Secularists in Turkey see the headscarf as a “ubiquitous and visible symbol of the Islamization of Turkish society”, as Angel Rabasa and F. Stephen Larrabee point out in The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey.

The headscarf or face veil is a dynamic and definitive symbol calibrated to divide the wheat from the chaff—to separate the “true” believers who have submitted entirely to Allah from the “nominal” Muslims who pick and choose from the Islamic scriptures as it suits them or as context and culture dictate.

The debate on the burqa is chiefly a theological debate. Muslims are asking the question: is the veil wajib (compulsory) for all Muslim women? There is no doubt in Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) that a Muslim woman’s hair and body should be covered. The dispute is over whether this extends to covering the face. Is face covering optional or mandatory?

The Koran does not mandate the face veil. The word hijab is the Arabic word for a curtain. The Koran instructs believers that if they had to ask Muhammad’s wives for anything they had to “speak to them from behind a curtain (hijab)” (33:53). Extrapolating from this verse, Muslims may conclude that the actions of Muhammad’s wives in veiling their entire bodies when meeting men who are not their relatives suggests that a hijab or burqa can also refer to clothing through which a woman conceals herself from view.

In the Koran, Allah commands Muhammad to tell his wives and Muslim women “that they should draw their cloaks (jilbab) over themselves” so they will not be molested (33:59). Again, devout Muslim women apply this to the face veil.

It is the Hadith that really opens a can of worms on the dispute over the burqa or hijab. For example, the hadith of Abu Dawood (No. 641) has Aisha, Muhammad’s wife claiming, "Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who has reached puberty unless she wears a khimar (a head covering).” Numerous verses in different Hadith collections make the hijab and other head coverings mandatory. Those who insist on the full-face veil usually translate terms used for head coverings as “veils” or full-body coverings, leaving openings for one eye or two so that the woman can see the way.

A number of hadith interpret the verse instructing women to “draw their cloaks over themselves” as covering one’s head and face with the exception of one eye. (Ma’rifatul-Qur’an Vol.7, p.217; Tafsir Ibn Jarir Vol.22, p.29; Tafsir al-Qurtubi. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al- Ilmiyah. Vol.14, p.156; Tafsir Ibn Kathir). Even the pure women of Paradise wear face veils, how much more should earthly women, contend those who insist on the burqa, basing their case on a hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol.8, No. 6568).

Scholars have pointed out that the form of Islam practiced by most women who wear the burqa is Salafist Islam, the most potent form of political Islam. Salafism advocates a literal and binary interpretation of Islamic teachings as enjoined by Muhammad. Salafists trace their roots to Saudi Arabia. They glorify an idealized vision of the true Islam practiced by Muhammad and the Muslims, in the seventh and eighth centuries.

A German intelligence report points out how, “Salafism rejects the democratic principles of separation of state and religion, popular sovereignty, religious and sexual self-determination, gender equality and the fundamental right to physical integrity”. Salafism is “the fastest-growing Islamic movement in Europe”.

The 100 Muslim women who have written a letter demanding Boris Johnson’s expulsion from the Tory party are using secular-speak to con the Prime Minister and the public with their taqiyya (Islamic deception or dissimulation). They say they speaking as “free women who are able to speak for ourselves” but are, in essence, the radical voice of Islam. They candidly declare they wear the burqa “because we believe it is a means to get closer to God”.

At the moderate end of the spectrum is Taj Hargey, imam at the Oxford Islamic Congregation, who says that the burqa and niqab are “a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam”. Munira Mirza, former Deputy Mayor of London, has also hit out at the Salafist face veil proponents for throwing: “moderate Muslims under the bus” and empowering “the unrepresentative grievance mongers and extremists who masquerade as Muslim community spokesmen”.

While moderate Muslims are backing Boris Johnson and even calling for a ban on the hideous and oppressive burqa, feminists like Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, have thrown their lot with Theresa May and the Salafists. In a statement reeking of monumental stupidity, Davidson compared Muslim women donning the burqa to Christians wearing a crucifix.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Theresa May, the daughter of a liberal Anglo-Catholic vicar, has foolishly rushed into a centuries-long in-house intra-religious Islamic debate and declared her advocacy for Salafist Islam. The Prime Minister who has made every effort to stamp out biblical, conservative and orthodox Christianity is now leading the Charge of the Left Brigade and by providing state-sanctioned legitimacy to the burqa is declaring her patronage for the most oppressive symbol of toxic masculinity.

Boris Johnson must not apologize. The values of the British in Britain supercede the values of all others who arrive to their lands.

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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