UKIP’s Lord Pearson tabled a debate on Islam in the House of Lords to discuss the basis for the statement made by the Prime Minister on 3 June:“There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror”.
The Prime Minister had made his comments following the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May and after a number of Muslim community leaders and organisations had condemned the killing.
Despite this, Lord Pearson used the debate to launch a tirade against Islam and Muslims citing verses from the Qur’an and claiming that verses relating to peace are always superseded by verses relating to jihad. According to Lord Pearson this can be seen in the Hadith and Sunnah as well. On the life of Prophet Muhammad, he said:
“…as Muhammad went through life, he became steadily more of a conquering warrior, and the messages that he received and what he said and did became progressively more bellicose and violent.”
Lord Pearson refers to the “verses of the sword” which he says “are many” and that they give jihadists their inspiration and authority. Throughout his diatribe Lord Pearson frequently quotes the Quran out of context and even mistranslates it.
Using derogative language when referring to Islam he attempts to tie the religion to wholly unconnected concepts and unrelated conflicts in a confused ramble. He said:
“I fear that the dark side is moving strongly within Islam. I understand the defence that Islamist terror against the West is a reaction to Palestine, Srebrenica, Iraq and Libya. The kaleidoscope of Islamic internal violence is being shaken hard in north Africa with the tragic conflict between Sunni and Shia, and we cannot yet see how it will settle. However, it is not encouraging that the Sandhurst-educated Sultan of Brunei has just introduced strict Sharia law in his country.”
Lord Pearson claims the political classes will not discuss ‘Islamism’ for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic. On this point he said:
“The “racist” tag is clearly nonsense—Islam is present in almost every race on earth, including of course our own. A phobia is an unreasonable fear of something, but is it unreasonable to fear a religion which has recently given us 9/11 and 200,000 dead, most of them Muslims, in 18,000 attacks since then; which has given us the London bombings, Mumbai, the Spanish train, Bali, Drummer Rigby, Nairobi and Boko Haram; which, in 15 of its current regimes, employs stoning to death, amputation and death for apostasy?”
He also claimed that politicians had invented hate crimes to silence people like him. For Lord Pearson the “hate lies in the heart of the Islamist” which is “red hot and seething against us”. He said these people “hate us with frightening religious fervour” and that we are right to fear them.
Later in his speech he claimed the BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson had confessed that the BBC would not air the “Can We Talk About This?” documentary because he did not want to “look down the barrel of an AK47”.
A number of Muslim peers spoke in the debate including Lords Sheikh, Ahmed, Bhatia and Baroness Pola Uddin.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham said:
“Rather than seek division or selective use of scriptures and theology, I emphasise today that the healing of divisions and the communication between those of different religions and societies is the primary responsibility…
“If one looks at the Muslim communities in Britain, there is a huge silent majority who abhor violence in the name of their religion. They are peace-loving British citizens who practise their faith and contribute to the welfare of their own communities, the wider communities and the United Kingdom”
Lord Ahmed spoke out against Lord Pearson and the dehumanising language used in his opening remarks. Lord Ahmed said “echoe[d] the anti-Semitic comments made about Jews in the 1920s.”
Lord Ahmed also raised previous comments made by the former UKIP leader, including remarks that “Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us”.
Lord Triesman added:
“the noble Lord talked about the “dark side” and birth rates of people who are, obviously, not quite as good as us, people stirring up hate and “red hot” people striving against us, people who we will finally see looking down the barrel of a gun at us, the plight of Christians, and so on. These are all characterisations which, candidly, should have no place in the debates in this country and our Parliament.”
To which the Lords replied in unison: “Hear, hear!”
Baroness Warsi, responded for the Government citing an episode of the TV drama, The West Wing, to make the points that passages from the Bible too can be “manipulated to cause mischief”. She added,
“The fact is, British Muslims play a crucial role in British society. Everyone in this house knows Muslims in British life—doctors, engineers, scientists, journalists, MPs, teachers, business people, local councillors and so on.
“…research conducted by ICM, which showed that Muslims are Britain’s top charity givers, topping a poll of religious groups. Muslims who donated to charity last year gave an average of almost £371 each. That is nothing new.
“Noble Lords may also be aware of the recent campaign that the Government launched to highlight the contribution of the nations from the Commonwealth during the First World War. Hundreds of thousands of the 1.2million who served in the British Indian Army were Muslims. They fought and died for the values and freedoms that we enjoy today.”