Boris Johnson (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)


PRIME minister hopeful Boris Johnson has been criticised for arguing Islam caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the West.

In an essay titled And Then Came the Muslims, which was unearthed by The Guardian on Monday (15), Johnson said there was something about Islam that hindered development.

“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,” he wrote in 2006.

“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’s comments have been slammed by Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hate.

Pointing out that Johnson demonstrated a lack of understanding of the religion, it said the essay portrayed Muslims as “a wave or horde of rampaging Muslims, who had little time for the intricacies and legacies of civilisations like that of Rome”.

“That shows a lack of understanding of Islam, and there are many Muslims whom Islam has inspired to produce some of the most beautiful art forms in their love for life and beauty.”

The Muslim Council of Britain, meanwhile, said many would like to know if Johnson, a favourite to become the next prime minister, still believed “Islam inherently inhibits the path to progress and freedom”.

Johnson has a history of making inflammatory remarks againsts Islam and Muslims.

Last year, he drew backlash after saying burkas were “ridiculous” and it made women look like letter boxes and bank robbers.

Commenting on the introduction of a burka ban in Denmark, Johnson said at the time: “If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you,” he said.

“If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.

“I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”