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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Guardian Comment: A skin-deep tolerance

What a difference a mayoral race can make. Only two years ago, Johnson's writings - readily available in the online archives of the Spectator and Daily Telegraph - were peppered with talk of the "paranoia of the Muslim mind", of Islam's "medievalism", "heartlessness" and "disgusting arrogance". Islamophobia was, he maintained, "a natural reaction" to "any non-Muslim reader of the Qur'an". We must, therefore, dispose of the "first taboo", he counselled, and accept "that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem."

Johnson's inflammatory comments may be turning into a load too heavy to be borne by one aspiring to lead Britain's most ethnically and religiously diverse city. So, in his desperation to ward off the charge of Islamophobia, the Tory candidate has suddenly discovered a distant Muslim family root, in which, he assures us, he takes much pride. It is as if the invocation of a Muslim lineage magically absolves one of moral and political responsibility for airing bigotry and prejudice.

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