Western civilisation’s immense debt to Islam | Letters

Readers take issue with Boris Johnson’s view that Islam kept the Muslim world centuries behind the west

Boris Johnson is painfully ignorant of the immense cultural, economic, and scientific contributions of Muslims (Islam kept Muslim world centuries behind the west, Johnson claimed, 16 July). Western civilisation owes an immense debt to Islam, whether in the form of algebra, the saving of ancient Greek heritage or the free-market economics of Ibn Khaldun.

Johnson is correct that many Muslim-majority nations are beset by social and political problems. Yet the same holds true for numerous Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Honduras, Haiti and South Africa. He also makes a “false equivalence” argument in comparing stable western democracies to war-ravaged countries like Bosnia, seemingly blaming Muslims there for being attacked. Curiously, Muslim extremists promote the same arguments as Johnson, albeit for different aims. Neither depiction is true nor helpful.

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Electronic textbooks may be the future. But you can’t do rude drawings on them | Sam Leith

Now Pearson is moving to digital-only, will pupils lose the noble tradition of highlighting the bits that made them snigger?

The world’s largest publisher of textbooks is preparing to throw in the towel on print and paper: Pearson has announced a digital-first strategy for its US market. New books will be published in electronic rather than print form, and Pearson will update its physical textbooks much less often from here on in. The UK is expected to follow in due course.

Students in the US, who increasingly opt to rent secondhand textbooks rather than buy them new, are eating into Pearson’s profits; so it has decided to cut the problem off at the source. Or, as it puts it, “It is time to flick the switch in how we primarily make and create our products.”

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Why automation is a feminist issue

Working women are twice as likely as men to lose their jobs to AI, according to a thinktank. Which perhaps isn’t surprising, given that most of that work is menial and badly paid

According to a new study from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), nearly 10% of women work in jobs with a high potential for automation, compared to only 4% of men. So what, I hear you say. Substitute “robots” for “austerity”, “the demise of unionisation”, “public-sector pay freezes”, “modern life” – pick any of these and women always come off worst. Except maybe this time the pointy heads are on to something: perhaps better understanding what the risks are from various directions will give us all some agency, even to the extent of being able to direct the future.

As Carys Roberts, the author of the IPPR report, tells me: “We don’t even talk about risks in this area, because there are so many different factors. The primary argument that we make is that this could go in different directions. Technology is not destiny.”

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Hong Kong showed China is a threat to democracy. Now Europe must defend Taiwan | Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Beijing is bullying another democratic neighbour. The EU must stop ignoring authoritarianism for the sake of stability and cash

Hong Kong’s administration has backed down over the controversial extradition bill, but the canary in the coalmine of China’s tacit acceptance of democracy is already dead.

Under China’s “one country, two systems” model, Hong Kong was given the guarantee that the freedoms of its citizens would be preserved and respected. Meanwhile, for a long time in the west, the consensus was that, as its economy grew, China would start to look more like Hong Kong. Regrettably, in recent years the opposite has happened and Hong Kong looks more like China by the year. Perhaps we were naive to believe that this erosion of Hong Kong’s democracy was not inevitable. Beijing makes no secret of its view that democracy and Chinese civilisation are incompatible. The protesters in the streets of Hong Kong would beg to differ, and I hope they succeed through peaceful means.

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Scarlett Johansson could ideally play ‘any person’. But our world is far from ideal | Simran Hans

The actor’s comments on casting are unhelpful to marginalised people. Art cannot be ‘immune to political correctness’

“As an actor, I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job,” the actress Scarlett Johansson told As If magazine in an interview obtained by the Daily Mail that has since gone viral (she later said her comments had been taken out of context and used as “clickbait”).

Not exactly surprising, coming from a woman who has played a cyborg (Ghost in the Shell), an alien (Under the Skin) and the disembodied voice of an artificially intelligent virtual assistant (Her), but it’s offensive nevertheless to hear a cisgender white woman assert her unassailable right to play whomever (or whatever) she pleases. Or as Vanity Fair’s film critic K Austin Collins put it in a tweet: “you cant just go around likening ‘playing a tree’ to ‘playing an asian woman’ lmao come on”.

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I worked with Boris Johnson as mayor. He’s not fit to lead | Sarah Hayward

As leader of Camden council, I saw at first hand how damaging his lack of attention to detail was

• Sarah Hayward was leader of the London Borough of Camden between 2012 and 2017

Conservatives shouldn’t view Boris Johnson’s time as mayor of London as a road map to winning in a hostile electoral environment. Instead it is a cautionary tale for how he might lead the country. I was leader of Camden council for all of Johnson’s second term and have seen up close how he behaves with executive power. It would be easy to dismiss me as a Labour stalwart taking potshots at the likely next Conservative prime minister, but Tory MPs could do worse than talk to those among their ranks who have worked closely with him. It is notable how few of them back his leadership bid.

As mayor, Johnson was happy to give planning permission for housing only accessible to those on six-figure salaries

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This genetic breakthrough on anorexia should transform how the disease is seen | Gaby Hinsliff

A study showing a genetic link to the eating disorder shows how wrong it is to simplistically blame people for their illness

Once upon a time, disease was thought to have been sent by God as a punishment for sin.

If not, then it must surely be the work of demons, witches or groups regarded as social outcasts. Thankfully medicine has moved on from the days when Jews were blamed for outbreaks of the plague across medieval Europe, yet with psychiatric illnesses something of the old accusatory myths seem to linger. Until relatively recently, autism was still wrongly blamed on so-called “refrigerator mothers”, who supposedly damaged their children by being cold and unloving. The discovery that autism has a genetic component turned our understanding of the role it plays in families upside down, and now something similar may be happening with anorexia.

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The moon landing still offers hope in a world ruled by tiny minds | Suzanne Moore

As a child I was fascinated by the moon landings. But after once gazing at the stars, our leaders now only look inwards

‘I am very grateful that this wonderful event should happen in my lifetime. I was precisely 11 years, 0 months, 1 day old,” I wrote diligently in my moon scrapbook. I was obsessed with the moon landings, to put it mildly, collecting every newspaper clipping. I wrote “Man on the moon” on every surface. Scratching it on to my desk meant I got a clip round the ear.

No one else in my family understood it. It was yet another sign of my unbelonging. No one in Ipswich got the huge significance of it all the way I did, and I was made to go on a stupid school camping trip instead of watching it on television. Surely it was another sign that I was indeed an alien.

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What caused Britain’s national nervous breakdown? | Tim Lott

Between 2000 and the 2008 financial crash, tech’s brave new world unleashed changes that were meant to make us happier

When did our country lose grip of its senses? Some will argue that we never had any in the first place, but others find a sharp contrast between the edgy, neurotic, angry, irrational country we find ourselves living in now and a Britain that was, not that long ago, vaguely commonsensical and, at base level, fundamentally civilised.

Researching my new novel, which focuses on the period between millennium eve and the financial crash of 2008, I was left in very little doubt about when it all started. Although I touch on trends in economics, immigration, property (my protagonist is an estate agent) and much besides, many of the forces I discovered were technological – but found their expression psychologically. In short, I believe this is when Britain embarked on its journey towards a full-blown nervous breakdown.

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It will be Boris Johnson. And it will certainly be a disaster | John Crace

Johnson is nothing if not reliably untrustworthy, but Hunt appears to have accepted the game is up

It could just have been overconfidence. More likely it was a white flag. A giving in to the inevitable. For the final head-to-head debate in the Tory leadership race, Team Hunt hadn’t sent a single MP out into the spin room to explain why their man was about to win. Not even Liam Fox, who bizarrely had managed to out fact-check Boris Johnson on the status of a UK-US trade deal that very morning. It’s come to something when the country depends on the international trade secretary – for the next week at least – as a voice of sanity.

For Team Boris, Dominic Raab was looking every bit like a man who won’t be taking public transport for much longer. The shiny ministerial limo awaits. Gone was the pent-up anger of his own failed leadership bid. The bulging neck veins of Captain Psycho had given way to Smiley Dom. The man whose road rage convictions are now spent and on whom no one has yet pinned any unsolved murders.

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