Boris Johnson’s take on Islam is historically illiterate | Jerry Brotton

No printing press until the 19th century? Wrong. But why let reality get in the way of a story that fires up his base? “You mustn’t let facts get in the way of a good story,” Boris Johnson was reported to have once told the French journalist Jean Quatremer in the early 1990s. It is a claim that defined much of his journalistic career and also appears to shape his pronouncements on the Muslim faith. In an essay written by Johnson in 2007 and unearthed by the Guardian this week , he claims that the Muslim world is “centuries behind” the west, because of a “fatal religious conservatism” that prevented the development of liberal capitalism and democracy. According to Johnson “virtually every global flashpoint you can think of – from Bosnia to Palestine to Iraq and Kashmir” is defined by “some sense of Muslim grievance”. Echoing his hero Winston Churchill’s view that there was “no stronger retrograde force” than Islam, Johnson believes “that the real problem with the Islamic world is Islam”. Related: I will quit