by Hugh Fitzgerald
Piers Morgan had Tommy Robinson on his show recently, but only very briefly, and he hardly let Robinson have a word edgewise, interrupting him at every turn. Here is how it went:
Piers Morgan, co-host of “Good Morning Britain,” angrily denounced Tommy Robinson, an author and famous British critic of Islam, his guest on June 20, and called him a “bigoted lunatic” while debating his controversial response to the recent attack on Muslims in London.[Morgan had mistakenly identified Muslims leaving the notorious Finsbury mosque as the target; in fact, the target was Muslims leaving a nearby Islamic welfare house].
Morgan registered his objection, saying, “Here’s my point. Right, I’ve read a lot of stuff that you’ve said and done. I know your history, I know all of it. Good, bad and ugly. Some of it is ugly, some of it, I agree with.”
“My issue with what you did, yesterday,” he continued, “is within one hour of this utter lunacy, this terrorist, driving from Wales, and deliberately mowing down innocent people, as it turned out, all Muslims, outside the Muslim welfare house, not the Finsbury Park mosque, killing one, maiming maybe 10 others, is your first thought process was not to express sympathy, for what had happened.”
“I read the tweets in sequential order, right,” he added, “within one hour your thought process was to go on the attack, to talk about another mosque, not the one that had been attacked, to talk about it in historical context, of when everybody knows the Finsbury Park mosque at the turn of the century was a bad place, with Abu Hamza, and everything else, right. And what you were doing, was fomenting hatred and almost suggesting that somehow this attack, this revenge attack as you put it, was somehow deserving because of the historical behavior of certain people at a completely different mosque — that was my problem.”
“OK, Piers,” Robinson responded, “the newspaper you work for said exactly the same within an hour — Abu Hamza’s mosque. Were they fomenting hate, the newspaper you work for? Were they? Were they inciting hate?”
“I don’t run the Daily Mail,” Morgan protested.
“Now, if I hold up this book and say, ‘There will never be peace on this Earth so long as we have this book, it’s a violent and cursed book,’ Can I say that? Sir William Gladstone said that,” Robinson continued, referring to the 19th century prime minister of Great Britain’s description of the Quran.
“Would you say that of the Bible? Show some respect,” Morgan retorted.
“Show some respect? Have you read this book?” Robinson shot back. “Have you read this book? There are a hundred verses in this book that incite violence and murder against us.”
Why didn’t Piers Morgan answer Robinson’s question? Has he read the Qur’an? If he had, why wouldn’t he say so? The problem for Piers Morgan is that either he has not read the Qur’an (which is entirely possible, for study is not his strong suit, and he seems to be noticeably unwilling to engage on its contents, never having mentioned a single one of its verses) and therefore has no business taking issue with what Tommy Robinson, channeling Gladstone, maintains, or he has read it in which case he knows what it contains and and wants to keep that information from the public. After all, if he had said, “Yes of course I’ve read the Qur’an,” Robinson’s next question would have been: “Okay, can you recall even one verse out of the more than one hundred that incite violence and murder against the Infidels?”
What does Morgan do then? Reply with something like this: ‘Oh, I’m sure there are some violent verses in the Qur’an, I don’t deny that, but these all relate to a specific context, in when certain tribes were fighting Muhammad, 1400 years ago and not meant to apply today. And by the way have you looked at the Old Testament recently?” (False “contexualization” followed by tu-quoque.) “?No religion is without some violent passages, I’m sad to say. But let’s not single out Islam, please. And I’m sorry, I can’t recall such a verse — though I’m not denying some exist. But it’s a question of whether the basic message of the Qur’an is one of peace and tolerance, as 1.6 billion Muslims certainly believe, and have told us repeatedly that it is. We mustn’t let extremists, who are only working out their own private demons, nut jobs the lot of them, be confused with real Muslims, who get up, drop off their kids at school, go to work,come home, eat dinner, watch the telly, and go to bed — that is, they do exactly what non-Muslims do.Why should we listen to the likes of of Tommy Robinson, who seems to think he’s more of an expert on Islam than Muslims themselves, and insists that the Holy Qur’an is a manual of war and terrorism?”
That is what, more or less, Piers Morgan would have offered had he had more time: “contextualization,” taqiyya, and tu-quoque.
The next time Robinson faces Piers Morgan or anyone else in the media so intent on defending Islam from Robinson’s criticism, he might try to slip in a verse or two, just to make things more difficult for his unsympathetic host. It need not be a Jihad verse, as 9:5 or 9:29. It could be, for example, one of those that explicitly mentions “terror,” as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” (8:12), which is hard to explain away. And so is “Infidels are the most vile of creatures” (98:6). If Robinson can manage to quote those verses on television, pushing them out into the public consciousness, that would be more valuable than a general denunciation of the Qur’an or of Islam.
When Robinson held up a Qur’an, Morgan was outraged.
“Put that book down,” Morgan commanded angrily, “show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs, right?”
“I should show some respect for a book that incites murder against me?” Robinson responded.
“Put it down,” Morgan said. “Put it down.”
“No, I won’t put it down,” Robinson said defiantly. “Sir William Gladstone held this book above his head in Parliament and he said, ‘There will never be peace on this Earth so long as we have this book. It’s a violent and cursed book.’ Was Sir William Gladstone, who we have statues across our capitol, was he a bigot or an Islamophobe?”
“See now you’re sounding like a complete lunatic,” Morgan said. “You’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic.”
Is Robinson sounding like a “bigoted lunatic”? All he did was accurately quote William Gladstone, four times prime minister of Great Britain. Was Gladstone a “bigoted lunatic”? He who had closely followed the ravages of the Ottoman Turks against the Bulgarian Christians, even wrote at length about the Turkish atrocities (“The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East”), and who had read the Qur’an, was not a man to shy away from recognizing either the disturbing doctrine of Islamic Jihad, or the disturbing practice of Muslims who engaged in violent Jihad. But of course it was a different time, and truth-telling about Islam not then suppressed, as it is today by the omnipresent piers-morgans of our latter-day media.
If Tommy Robinson is a “bigoted lunatic,” then so is William Ewart Gladstone, the man Robinson quoted so appositely.
Either Gladstone said what Tommy Robinson attributes to him, or he did not. Morgan can’t handle this. He doesn’t deny Gladstone said it, because he can’t, and his method of dealing with it is to deflect attention away from what Gladstone said that was so damning about the Qur’an — to wave away William Ewart Gladstone, with Churchill one of Great Britain’s two greatest prime ministers (and, we should remember, Churchill shared Gladstone’s dim view of Islam, which he formed early when he was in the Sudan, and never recanted) and to prevent Tommy Robinson from quoting him at greater length, by resorting to hysterical name-calling: Robinson is a “complete lunatic…you’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic.” Viewers are left confused, and some will come away with the impression that Robinson has made something up about William Ewart Gladstone. But of course he hadn’t. Gladstone did hold up a Qur’an during a session of Parliament, calling it an “accursed book” and declaring that “so long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world.” His study of the Qur’an, and his own experience the Muslim Turks led him to such a view. When in 1876 the Bulgarian Christians rose up against their Muslim masters, the Ottoman Turks, Gladstone, then out of office, was appalled by the reports of the many cruelties of the Turks in suppressing the Bulgarians — massacring men, women, and children with fantastic cruelty, with 15,000 civilians killed in Plovdiv alone — and wrote a pamphlet: “The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.” It was not just about the latest atrocities, but about the long history of what happened when the Muslim Turks conquered Christian lands, including Greece, the Balkans, Bulgaria and Rumania, and extending all the way north into Hungary.
In that work, Gladstone described the Ottoman Turks thus:
Wherever they went, a broad line of blood marked the track behind them; and, as far as their dominion reached, civilisation disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force, as opposed to government by law. For the guide of this life they had a relentless fatalism: for its reward hereafter, a sensual paradise.
They were indeed a tremendous incarnation of military power. This advancing curse menaced the whole of Europe. It was only stayed, and that not in one generation, but in many, by the heroism of the European population of those very countries, part of which form at this moment the scene of war, and the anxious subject of diplomatic action. In the olden time, all Western Christendom sympathised with the resistance to the common enemy; and even during the hot and fierce struggles of the Reformation, there were prayers, if I mistake not, offered up in the English churches for the success of the Emperor, the head of the Roman Catholic power and influence, in his struggles with the Turk.
What that “bigoted lunatic” Tommy Robinson was referring to when he invoked Gladstone was not only that statesman’s remark made during a session of Parliament, where he held up a Qur’an and said that “as long as there is this accursed book there will be no peace in the world,” but Gladstone’s condemnation of Islam in “The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.”
Morgan called Robinson a “complete disgrace” for holding up the Quran in his hand “in a disgraceful manner,” while Robinson continued his argument against Islam. What was disgraceful about it? That he did not show extra-special deference to such a book, handling it with ostentatious hyper-respect as if it were a delicate and precious object, whose sacredness he recognized? How would one demonstrate that a particular book is being shown the necessary “respect”? We can imagine the reverse: someone handling a book with studied contempt, by slamming it down on a desk, or holding it upside down, or tossing it onto the ground. But that is not what happened here.Tommy Robinson merely held the book up, the way he would hold any other book, including the Bible, with no attempt to show disrespect. Apparently that wasn’t enough to satisfy Piers Morgan.
Wasn’t Piers Morgan’s objection really that in his view no Infidel should be holding up the “Holy Qur’an” at all unless the deepest respect was also shown? It’s as if all Infidels should be made to refer to Muhammad as “the Prophet Muhammad” (as some already are). Morgan’s extraordinary panicky reaction was possibly prompted by fear that Muslims, learning of the putative ”mistreatment”of their holy book on his show (meaning: an islamo-critic like Tommy Robinson should not be allowed to even touch the book), might come looking for him as the host, and Morgan wanted to make sure to distance himself, by denouncing Robinson in such extreme terms (“lunatic”…”bigoted lunatic”), for daring to hold up a Qur’an. Such a fear is not unreasonable. But it’s something Morgan must overcome, if his guests are to have any chance of unconstrainedly discussing the texts and teachings of Islam.
What would be a “right way” for Infidels to hold a Qur’an, or is there no “right way,” especially if they are criticizing its contents? Were Muslims in the U.K. to demand that “in the interests of inter-communal peace” there be a law that would “forbid anyone from touching the Holy Qur’an unless in doing so he shows the proper respect,” how long would it take the political and media elites in the U.K., including Theresa May and Piers Morgan, to find this proposal perfectly acceptable? And would “proper respect” include, as I fear it might, constraining criticism of the contents of the Qur’an? How long would it be before an even more dangerous law is passed, ostensibly giving all faiths the same protection, but really aimed at protecting Islam, making it illegal to criticize the contents of any sacred book, on the spurious claim that such criticism is what leads to hate-speech? Free speech, especially of speech critical of Islam, is already under assault, shouted down on campuses, censored on-line (both Facebook and Twitter have censored Jihad Watch as “hate speech”), and islamo-critics, like Tommy Robinson, hysterically denounced on television, while the suave apologists for Islam, such as Tariq Ramadan, now a professor at Oxford, or Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, have no such worries. And this at a time when we need much more instruction, not less, in what Islam inculcates, including the valuable testimony from disaffected Muslims, who must brave death threats.
Meanwhile, there is a telling postscript to the story of William Ewart Gladstone. who so detested Islam. At his death he left money for a library to be built in Hawarden, Flintshire, near where he had lived. He donated 32,000 of his own books, delivering some of them himself — when he was 86 — in a wheelbarrow. In 2011, a new addition, called the House of Wisdom, after a library of the Islamic ”golden age,” the Bayt al-Hikma, full of books on Islam and Islamic history, was added to Gladstone’s Library. According to a news report, “the addition was hailed as just the kind of thing Gladstone himself would have approved of, to help promote inter-faith understanding and co-operation.’” Peter Francis, the Warden [director] of Gladstone’s Library, is quoted as saying that “relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims would certainly have been amongst Gladstone’s central concerns.” Yes, they certainly were, but not in the way Peter Francis allows himself to believe.
Knowing what we do about Gladstone, it is impossible to think that he had much interest in “promoting inter-faith understanding and co-operation.” He knew too much about Islam; his understanding of the doctrine of Islam and the practice of Muslims — the result of study of the Qur’an, and observation of what the Muslim Turks did to the Christian Bulgarians — caused him to conclude that the Qur’an was a work counseling permanent war against the Infidel, which is why he stated that “so long as we have this book, there will be no peace on earth.” But in 1876, the year of the Bulgarian massacres, it was D’Israeli, not Gladstone, who was Prime Minister. And the policy of D’Israeli’s Conservatives, who saw the Ottoman Empire as a counterweight to Russia, was to leave the Turks alone (geopolitics makes strange bedfellows). Gladstone thundered against this cruel calculation, which meant abandoning the Bulgarian Christians. He understood that only force would stop the Muslim Turks — or any other Muslims conducting violent Jihad. The very idea of “interfaith cooperation” with Muslims he would have found both infuriating and ludicrous.
Yet Gladstone, now safely dead and in no position to set the record straight, is being presented by others as the very opposite of what he was: a man appalled not just by the atrocities committed by Muslim in Bulgaria, but by Islam itself.
“And, within the context of his pragmatic politics and humanitarian principles, it is likely that inter-faith understanding and dialogue would have been at the core of his approach.” [Peter Francis again.]
On what basis does Peter Francis claim that “it is likely” that Gladstone would have had “inter-faith understanding and dialogue” as the “core of his approach” in dealing with Muslims?
There is not the slightest evidence that Gladstone, whose name is now being deceptively invoked by apologists for Islam, and enrolled, without so much as a by-your-leave, in a campaign to promote “inter-faith understanding” that he would have found silly and sinister, ever changed his views of Islam; he believed that only force would stop the atrocities of the Muslim Turks against the Christians of Bulgaria. He wrote “The Bulgarian Horrors” to awaken others to the campaign of mass-murder by the Turks. Having read the Qur’an, he understood that the Turks in 1876 were not violating, but hewing to, the texts and teachings of Islam, in conducting Jihad against the Christians. A student of history, Gladstone knew, too, of the 1400 years of uninterrupted hostility toward, and often open warfare against, non-Muslims by Muslims, who were only following the Qur’an’s commands. That is why he held up the Qur’an and declared that “so long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world.”
Tommy Robinson, who so often is treated condescendingly by the British media as some sort of lager lout (he’s not the suavest of speakers, but he has one uncommon virtue: he tries to tell the truth about Islam) was perfectly justified in invoking Gladstone’s views on Islam when he appeared on the Piers Morgan show. Not everyone who watched that show will have come away thinking he’s a “bigoted lunatic.” Why did Gladstone have the views on Islam that he did? some in the television audience will have asked themselves. Some must even have been prompted to look into what Gladstone wrote about the Muslim Turks, or to find out why he thought the Qur’an such a dangerous and violent book, by reading it themselves. And if they do so, they will realize how false is the claim now being made for Gladstone as a believer in “interfaith cooperation and dialogue” with Muslims. This is the very opposite of the views Gladstone unambiguously did hold, and eloquently expressed. And though the evidence shows that there was a “bigoted lunatic” on the Piers Morgan show, it was not Tommy Robinson.
First published in Jihad Watch.