Boris Johnson is perhaps the most famous politician of the Conservative Party as well as the current prime Minister of the United Kingdom, holding office since 2019. Besides him being a politician, writer and a former journalist, it is a little known fact that he is also the great grandson of a Muslim politician and journalist of the Ottoman Empire era, Ali Kemal.
The PM we know today, surprisingly, has a Muslim background and yet ironically, he has been criticized for his labels against Muslims and Islam.
Boris Johnson has spoken on Islamophobia on a number of occasions. In 2005, he wrote in the Spectator, ‘Islamophobia’ is a natural reaction to Islam, and that the problem lies within Islam. Now, since the word “Islamophobia” is a strong one, will it not provoke extreme hatred of Muslims in those who agree with his argument? In 2006, his book, “the dream of Rome” stated that Islam has caused the Muslim world to be centuries behind the west. In the wake of London Bombings, he questioned the loyalty of the entire British Muslim community and said that Britain has to accept that “Islam is the problem.”
With these type of comments, we cannot expect to promote a safer and more peaceful environment but only aggravate the situation.
Again very recently, he compared the Burqa (women’s Islamic dress) to letterboxes: “It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”. Throughout the world he caused a lot of anger and hurt sentiments, amongst Muslims as well as Non-Muslims, but even then this man chose not to apologize for his statement.
Coming back to his roots, BBC teamed up with Boris Johnson in Turkey, where he met his cousin Sinan Kuneralp in search of his true identity.
We found that Johnson’s great grandfather, Ali Kemal met his wife, Winifred Brun, a British woman in Switzerland where they married. After living in Cairo for a while, they moved back to Turkey because of financial difficulties. Then again from Turkey they moved back to London, this time due to political issues. Here, his wife passed away after giving birth to their second child Osman, who we know as Boris’s grandfather. Even though Kemal had moved to UK to live with his family, they were struggling to survive financially and then because of this, Kemal again returned to Turkey to revive his political career leaving his two children Celma and Osman, with his mother-in-law, Margaret Johnson in London.
Ali Kemal was serving as the Minister of Interior when Turkey became occupied by the British. People called him a traitor because he did not join the Nationalist party and put his faith in the British. But unfortunately, one day he got attacked and was lynched by a Turkish mob.
Back in London, Margret desperately wanted to change the surnames of her half Turkish grandchildren from Kemal to Johnson, although we did not find any official reason as to why she wanted that done. But most likely it was because she wanted to protect her grandchildren from being bullied at school or in society with a Turk name, as Britain was fighting Germany and Turkey was a German ally, during the World War. The son, Osman, changed his name to Wilfred Johnson and eventually married Irene Williams in the UK. Together they had a son, Stanley Johnson, who is Boris Johnson’s father.
Had Margaret, not thought of changing the surnames, then we would know the current PM as Boris Kemal.
Islam is a religion that preaches us to be good to others, just like all other mainstream religions. Most practitioners of it are peaceful and there would have been total anarchy in Muslim majority countries had that not been the case.
Focusing only on the small proportion of Muslims who are not peaceful, and then using their actions to promote anti-Muslim sentiments, is not an acceptable behavior from an important political leader.
Considering his statements above along with the surprising fact that his great grandfather was a Turkish Muslim, makes one wonder what went wrong. Other members of his family possibly influenced him, and these other members of the family were anti-Islam. However even if we do not buy that argument, it’s quite obvious that the family failed to teach the true spirit of Islam, and lost it all in a mere 2 generations.
This makes a shiver go through the spine: How many other families are out there that will end up with a similar fate? How often do we fail to communicate the true teachings of Islam? Remember, if a person is born into a Muslim family, it is hard to make him indifferent to Islam: If he does not end up agreeing with Islam, it is quite likely that he will end up despising it.