Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s recent opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph, comparing burqah–clad Muslim women in Europe to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” made me laugh out loud.No stranger to controversy, Johnson is example par excellence of the “mansplainer” — a misogynist who believes that determining socio-cultural norms are a male privilege. Johnson and his ilk claim conservative Muslim women who choose to wear the veil are victims of a “strongly oppressive” patriarchy that curbs their intrinsic human rights and treats them as cattle. This facetious logic makes him no better than the average Talibani man, as both have taken it upon themselves to infringe a woman’s freedom of expression.Moreover he has refused to take back his words even after fellow Labor party lawmakers heaped scorn on him for “fanning the flames of Islamophobia,” arguing instead that his personal views were nobody’s business and protecting the liberal values underpinning modern Europe, was a cause worth fighting for. His article followed news that Denmark had joined a clutch of other Western European nations inoutlawing all face coverings for women in public, a law popularly known as the “burqah ban.”Under the new law, repeat offenders can be jailed for up to six months besides paying a hefty fine. Helmets, ski masks and skullcaps etc. are exempted as they serve a “recognizable purpose.”And who defines that purpose? Danish politicians. This law coincides with the resurgence of hard-right nationalism in Europe, best exemplified by “Brexit,” after years of economic frustration with the EU and the ensuing rise of populist bigot sin the Trump mould. Celebrating multiculturalism is now rapidly giving way to the white is right ideology.In short, the ban has become another state tool of oppression for European Muslims. Though it touched off a firestorm of criticism from global human and gender rights watchdogs, the fundamental clash here is miles more than public safety versus personal freedoms. Danish politicians assert that the burqah ban is critical for deeper cultural assimilation so these women are no longer beholden to the pockets of oppressive patriarchy in progressive European states like Denmark. Unfortunately, this policy will likely backfire in a way that self-fulfilling prophecies often doWhile in the capitalist centric regions of western Europe, women are encouraged to bare all for profit, it is unfathomable for these hard-right nationalists to respect a woman’s choice to dress modestly.This is a grotesque double standard and cultural imperialism at its worst.Johnson and other European politicians may shout their throats hoarse over how the ban will emancipate Muslim women in Europe, but it won’t. It will instead paint a giant bull’s-eye over them that incites hate-crimes and discrimination in employment, housing, education, medicare etc. for the mere reason that they do not fit the liberal European prototype of the 21st century woman.Now let us review the many layers of harm society and gender rights face from this law. First, it sets an unwanted precedent for future intervention by governments into Europe’s much flaunted personal freedoms.For this reason, no Danish woman should celebrate the burqah ban. If today the state has targeted a minority with little political or economic power, they should not feel like justice has been served.Such state intervention into personal freedoms is a slippery slope because women are not a monolithic group, and patriarchy is as well and alive in the West as anywhere else.Otherwise, male chauvinists like Johnson, who in March ran afoul of parliamentary decorum for sexist comments disparaging a female opposition MP, would never have risen to the upper echelons of government.Should the right to decide “recognisable purpose” remain with politicians, tomorrow they may conclude gays, punks, transsexuals, non-whites or any other female sub-group with an alternative lifestyle having crossed the threshold of propriety, and move to restrict their freedoms as well.Simply put, depriving Muslim women of their personal freedoms might not immediately impact all female Danes, however it sets the stage for an assault onto their rights as well.A textbook example is white Christian fundamentalists like the Westboro Baptist Church who cheered the US Patriot Act after 2001 that sanitized mass public surveillance by the state to contain jihadist terrorism. The very same cheer leaders, however cried foul when they later discovered Washington had used its domestic spying apparatus to also keep tabs on white extremism.Secondly, far from protecting conservative Muslim women from their male oppressors, it jeopardizes their personal safety by turning them into an exclusionary “others” at a time when anti-Muslim sentiments across Europe are rising at an alarming rate.Hence, going forward, any women in Denmark that remotely resemble Muslims in the way they cover their heads or wear loose-fitting clothes will be viewed as fair game for public harassment by any number of intolerant individuals or groups.Lastly, Danish politicians assert that the burqah ban is critical for deeper cultural assimilation so these women are no longer beholden to the pockets of oppressive patriarchy in progressive European states like Denmark. Unfortunately, this policy will likely backfire in a way that self-fulfilling prophecies often do.A sustained state narrative that paints conservative Muslim women as social pariahs will likewise reinforce their feelings of helplessness and their status of unwelcome outsiders.To summarise, while the Denmark burqah ban will accomplish little for gender equality,it will surely push an already beleaguered minority further into the fringes of society.And a state that willfully puts citizens in harm’s way has no right to call itself a democracy.The writer is an Ipoh-based independent journalistPublished in Daily Times, August 10th 2018.