John Humphrys suggests people are seeing “the burqa in my pub”

A social phenomenon sweeping Britain.

NS

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If you could trust anyone to tiptoe sensitively into the story of Boris Johnson’s calculated mockery of women who wear the niqab, it would be the BBC’s foot-in-mouth-in-chief John Humphrys.

And, as is depressingly inevitable every godforsaken morning from 6-9am, the Today programme presenter delivered – revealing his utter lack of knowledge and tact when interviewing Tory peer Eric Pickles about Johnson’s comments.

As Pickles urged Johnson to apologise for comparing women wearing burqas or niqabs to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”, Humphrys simply had to speak up for the legitimate concerns of ordinary people – specifically, that our pubs are full of women wearing burqas.

“If he [Johnson] did that [apologised], a lot of people might say what that means is that, although I personally – they might say – am opposed to the burqa,” he began, in a devastating rebuttal. “I don’t like seeing the burqa in the street, or in my pub, or in my shop or wherever it happens to be.”

To which a rather resigned Pickles sighed: “I think you’re unlikely to see it in your pub, to be fair.”

Stifling an embarrassed laugh, Humphrys hastily responded: “Unlikely to be seen in the pub, admittedly, I’ll accept that… but in my shop or wherever I happen to be, it makes me feel uneasy. Are they entitled to feel uneasy?”

Your mole would suggest everyone, including Muslims, are entitled to “feel uneasy” if high-profile journalists on the UK’s flagship political programme are suggesting real actual people are up-in-arms about women wearing burqas (in a country where hardly anyone wears a niqab, let alone a burqa) in pubs. Where strict Muslims are known to regularly congregate.

If Pickles hadn’t called him out, what were his follow-up questions going to be? “How do they eat pork scratchings in a burqa, anyway?” “Is it safe for women in face veils to play darts?” “Should pub landlords be obliged to list the call to prayer on their jukeboxes?”

Seriously, BBC, sort it out.

I'm a mole, innit.