“Islam inherently inhibits the path to progress and freedom”. Not my words: Boris Johnson’s, from an article he wrote in 2007.
But is there a half-educated person with even a fraction of a brain cell who doesn’t know this statement to be accurate, fair and reasonable?
Why, to deny the truth of that statement you’d have to deny the evidence of over a thousand years of history: the Judaeo-Christian West has thrived; the Umma – that’s the world of Islam – has lagged far behind, socially and economically.
You’d need to ignore the fact that by far the most prosperous and democratic country in the Middle East – Israel – is by definition non-Muslim.
You’d need to ignore all those international league tables measuring everything from GDP per capita to transparency to gender equality which show that, on almost every metric, Islamic nations are more backward than Western democracies.
In fact, you’d need to be so wedded to the identity politics doctrine of resentment, confected grievance and distorted narratives that you’d have to deny reality itself.
But apparently, this kind of delusional, politically correct, virtue-signalling idiocy is what the Guardian – formerly a respectable newspaper of the intelligent left – demands of Britain’s next prime minister.
We know this because the Guardian has been engaging in a bit of cheap offence archaeology and come up with this rather desperate indictment of Boris Johnson’s alleged Islamophobia:
In an essay titled And Then Came the Muslims, added to the 2007 edition of his book, Johnson wrote: “There must be something about Islam that indeed helps to explain why there was no rise of the bourgeoisie, no liberal capitalism and therefore no spread of democracy in the Muslim world.
“It is extraordinary to think that under the Roman/Byzantine empire, the city of Constantinople kept the candle of learning alight for a thousand years, and that under Ottoman rule, the first printing press was not seen in Istanbul until the middle of the nineteenth century. Something caused them to be literally centuries behind.”
The Conservative leadership frontrunner wrote that the inhibitor of progress was “a fatal religious conservatism” and the further the Muslim world had “fallen behind, the more bitterness and confusion there has been, to the point where virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq to Kashmir – involves some sense of Muslim grievance”.
The Guardian‘s outraged tone invites us to find this shocking, reprehensible, a repudiation of Boris’s fitness for office.
But again, is there a historian anywhere – one who knows his stuff, I mean, and still does actual history as opposed to breast-beating new-Oxbridge-style ‘decolonise the curriculum’ agitprop – who wouldn’t agree that these are statements of the blindingly obvious?
And they’re not written in a spirit of scorn or triumphalism. None of us in the free West, I don’t think, gloats over the beheadings and crucifixions carried out by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or the abject poverty in the Yemen or the status of women in Iran or the practice of FGM in Somalia. We view it ruefully rather than gloatingly and wish it could be otherwise and wonder what could be done to improve this state of affairs.
Boris is no different. In order to solve a problem, first you must try to understand its root cause. That’s all Boris was trying to do in that uncontroversial socio-political-historical exegesis.
At least it should be uncontroversial.
But as is the way with the modern left, the Guardian is trying make it controversial by pointing a finger, shrieking and going: “Look everyone! Look at how hateful and racist and wrong these statements are!”
This technique only works, though, if enough of us agree to accept the Guardian‘s claims on their own terms.
For this to happen we would have to accept, for example, that the groups the Guardian cites as having “strongly criticised” Boris’s remarks carry any moral authority.
One of them is Tell Mama, a one-man-and-a-dog grievance-mongering organisation with a track record of exaggerating ‘hate crimes’ against Muslims.
Another is Muslim Council of Britain, an Islamist institution which rarely lets an opportunity slip to talk up the mostly fake news issue of ‘Islamophobia’
Another is this extremely dodgy-sounding character:
Mohammed Amin, a former chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said Johnson’s analysis risked “actively promoting hatred of Muslims”. Amin was expelled by the forum in June after criticising the party leadership’s response to reports of Islamophobia and comparing Johnson’s popularity to that of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
Let’s be absolutely clear about the scandal here. The scandal has nothing to do with any of the perfectly reasonable things Boris Johnson has said about Islam. The scandal is that what is in some ways Britain’s most powerful newspaper – not because anyone buys it but because of the extraordinary influence it exerts over the BBC and, by extension, Britain’s craven, frit and career-safe political class – is now prepared to plumb such shameless and irresponsible depths in its hard-left activism.
In the eyes of the Guardian, house journal of Britain’s state broadcaster, it is now politically unacceptable to state even basic historical facts about Islam. It wants us to redesignate not just the religion of Islam but even its history, its culture and its economic track record as potentially blasphemous territory.
This is how the new left rolls in ugly alliance with its Islamist friends.
If it is allowed to dictate the terms of Britain’s political debate in this way then truly the country is doomed.
One way of stopping this happening is for sensible people to point out what the left is doing – and not to let it get away with it.