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Lord Pearson heckled for reference to ‘good Muslims’

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Last week, Lord Pearson referred to ‘good Muslims’ in the House of Lords, by which he meant Muslims who adhere to the teachings of Islam. This came after an oral question to the government asking what assessment they have made about the rapidly increasing Muslim population and the increasing influence of sharia law in England. Lord Pearson was heckled in the normally restrained House of Lords for what he said. Tim Dieppe comments on the debate.

Question in the House of Lords

Lord Pearson asked an oral question in the House of Lords on Monday 30th April as follows:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the Muslim population of England grew 10 times faster than the general population between 2001 and 2016; what is their estimate of future growth; and what is their assessment of the impact of that trend on the relationship between Sharia and domestic law.”

According to the Office of National Statistics, the Muslim population of England has doubled between 2001 and 2016, while the overall population growth was only 11%. This has resulted in the Muslim proportion of the population growing from 3.1% to 5.8%.

No assessment

In her reply for the government, Baroness Williams said:

“The Government have made no assessment of the current or future growth of the Muslim population, or that of any other faith, in England and its impact. The Government recently confirmed in their response to the independent review of sharia law that sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales.”

Lord Pearson responded to this reply as follows:

“My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, but I am afraid it is not really adequate. Good Muslims must follow Muhammad’s example and impose sharia law on their hosts when they are strong enough to do so.”

Rude interruptions

Here Lord Pearson was rudely interrupted with shouts of “Rubbish!” and “Nonsense!” Such heckling is unusual in the normally restrained atmosphere of the House of Lords.

Lord Pearson continued:

“Well, let’s talk about it. Several of our local authorities will soon be Muslim-majority and anger is already rising among our kufr working class at the Islamification of their communities.​

First, I again ask the Government whether they will require all teaching in our mosques and madrassas to be in English.

Secondly, I yet again ask them to foster an open national debate about Islam to include our Muslim friends so that we can all understand with what we may be dealing in a few years’ time.”

At this point, video recording of the debate captures a member of the House of Lords rudely and loudly interjecting with: “Could you sit somewhere else for your next question!”, and responses of laughter around the House.

Evidence in support of Lord Pearson’s claim of rising anger in working class communities could come from recently formed movements such as Veterans Against Terrorism and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance that have organised several marches against terrorism.

Discussion of faith not acceptable in society

Baroness Williams responded:

“My Lords, I think your Lordships’ House would agree that points about good Muslims and bad Muslims are not for this House. I was just wondering whether I, in that context, was a good Catholic or a bad Catholic, but I do not think that sort of thing has any place in your Lordships’ House or in society.”

Here Baroness Williams appears to want to rule out discussion of what constitutes a good Muslim or a good Catholic from discussion in parliament or in society! What sort of society does she envisage where people are not free to discuss religious faiths and practices and what it means to be a good adherent of any particular faith tradition? One should be able to say that a good Catholic would attend mass, say prayers, believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that abortion is wrong, for example. No matter that many self-identifying Catholics may not adhere to all these practices and beliefs. Baroness Williams appears to want to prohibit such discussion.

Accused of lying

As the discussion continued, the Bishop of Leeds intervened:

“My Lords, does the Minister agree that a prerequisite to any intelligent discussion of Islam or any other religion should pay attention to the ninth commandment, which is that you will not bear false witness against your neighbour?”

This amounts to an accusation that Lord Pearson is lying about Islamic teaching.

Baroness Williams replied:

“The right reverend Prelate is right. I was just trying to think of my 10 commandments and might have forgotten some of them.”

What does Islam teach?

The imperative on Muslims to seek to apply sharia law is made clear in Suras 5:4-49 in the Qur’an. For example:

 “And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the disbelievers.” (Q 5:44)

Similar statements are made in verses 45, 47, and 48. This is talking about judging or making laws according to the Qur’an or sharia law.

For further explanation of this principle is given in an online fatwa from Sheik Muhammed Salih al-Munajiid. This fatwa refers to these verses in the Qur’an and states clearly:

Allaah has commanded us to refer matters to His judgement and to establish Sharee‘ah, and He has forbidden us to rule with anything else, as is clear from a number of aayaat in the Qur’aan.”

The example of Muhammad

The example of Muhammad in Medina in 627AD is very clear. Muhammad committed an atrocity  against the Jewish tribes in Medina. Muhammad arrived in Medina in 622AD and was dependent on the hospitality of the local Jewish tribes. Once Muhammad and his growing band of Muslims gained strength, they conquered these people and confiscated their land.  Some 800 surrendered men and boys were beheaded after the final battle. Since Muhammad is held up as the perfect example for Muslims, this sets a precedent for peaceful relations for minority groups of Muslims within a host country, followed by dominance and imposition of shari’a law once they gain enough strength to impose this on their hosts. 

More examples from Muhammad’s life and the teaching of Islam could be given, and many are supplied in the book “Al-Hijra: The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration, Accepting freedom or imposing Islam?” by Sam Solomon and E Al Maqdisi. Examples are also supplied from the history of the expansion of Islam. While many self-identifying Muslims may be unaware of or disagree with this teaching, Lord Pearson is right to say that ‘good Muslims’ will seek to follow this teaching and example.


Lord Pearson has been accused of being guilty of ‘Islamophobia’ for such statements in the House of Lords. Islamophobia is often presented as akin to antisemitism – irrational prejudice against all Muslims. In fact it is different from antisemitism in several key ways as Melanie Phillips outlined in an article in The Times this week. Antisemitism is irrational prejudice against Jews. Anti-Semitic prejudice is based on lies, falsehoods, and distortion of facts. Islamophobia is concerned with Islam as an ideology, and not with Muslims as people. Those accused of Islamophobia are often merely repeating facts such as what the Qur’an teaches.

The accusation of Islamophobia is thrown at anyone who questions the ideology of Islam. It does not matter whether the questions raised are themselves rational and sensible questions to ask. Pointing out that Islamic teaching and the example of Muhammad is used to justify terrorist actions is regarded as Islamophobic. No matter that this is demonstrably true.

There are, of course, people who are irrationally prejudiced against Muslims. Perhaps that could be called Muslimophobia. But the label ‘Islamophobic’ is used, as Phillips points out, to shut down rational debate about Islam as an ideology. Legitimate criticism and questions about Islam must be able to take place in a free and open society. The Islamophobia accusation is used to stifle such discourse.

An open national debate about Islam

Lord Pearson is to be thanked and commended for raising these issues in the House of Lords for public debate. Not all Muslims will be aware of the teaching or example of Muhammad, let alone follow it, but the standard for whether a Muslim is a ‘good’ adherent of the faith is nevertheless the extent to which they follow the teaching an example of Muhammad. Lord Pearson was not lying about the teaching of Islam, nor was he guilty of irrational prejudice. Lord Pearson is quite right to call for an open national debate about Islam. I hope he succeeds in this aim. If you agree, you might like to write to him at the House of Lords thanking him for his efforts.



Hansard report of the House of Lords debate.

Video of the debate in the House of Lords.

Fatwa regarding shari’a law.

Melanie Phillips: “Islamophobia is a fiction to shut down debate”, The Times, 7 May 2018.