A former leader of Ukip has been accused of “diabolical” behaviour after he responded to the publication of a report on the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by calling on Muslims to “address the violence” in the Qur’an and in “the life and the example” of the prophet Muhammad.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who led Ukip during the last general election, is to be reported to the speaker of the upper house, Lady D’Souza, after he suggested that the Qur’an had inspired Rigby’s killers.
Ukip defended Pearson’s remarks but the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said the peer’s intervention showed that Nigel Farage led a “party of Islamophobes”.
Pearson, who defected to Ukip from the Tories in 2004, took issue with David Cameron’s statement that Rigby’s murder was a betrayal of Islam and of Britain’s Muslim communities.
He told peers: “My lords, are the government aware that Fusilier Rigby’s murderers quoted 22 verses of the Qur’an to justify their atrocity? Therefore, is the prime minister accurate or helpful when he describes it as a betrayal of Islam? Since the vast majority of Muslims are our peace-loving friends, should we not encourage them to address the violence in the Qur’an – and indeed in the life and the example of Muhammad?”
Lady Stowell of Beeston, the leader of the Lords, who repeated the prime minister’s statement to MPs in the upper house, immediately distanced peers from his remarks. She said: “My lords, British Muslims want strong counter-terrorism measures in this country so that everybody in this country who shares British values, whatever their faith, is safe. That is basically all I need to say to the noble lord.”
Mahmood told the Guardian: “This lifts the veil of Farage when he tries to say he believes in all the communities and would work together with people as a serious party. This is not a serious party. This is a party, in this instance, of Islamophobes and people who just generally can’t understand and tolerate the different heritages and cultures that we have in the UK who work together.
“Virtually everybody has condemned – and I, again, for the record condemn – the atrocious attack on Lee Rigby. This [intervention by Pearson] is just complete nonsense. Obviously he hasn’t read the Qur’an. Islam is about submission to the Almighty. It is not about war against anybody else.”
He added: “I find it absolutely offensive that this guy is still able to say this. I will actually tomorrow make a complaint formally to the lords speaker on this issue. This is not tolerable and it should not be tolerated at all.”
Yasmin Qureshi, the Labour MP for Bolton South East, said: “These are lies. Trying to say this comes from some text in the Qur’an or there is some justification in the religion – it isn’t there. To suggest that Muslims should be apologising and somehow having to take responsibility for the actions of a handful of people is absolutely diabolical. This is nonsensical rubbish.”
A Ukip spokesman said: “What Lord Pearson is doing is calling on Islamic scholars to treat the Qur’an as Christian scholars treat the Bible – to use it as a subject for debate and discourse around the core message. He is talking about how Islamic scholars are constrained by the comprehension that the Qur’an is the perfect word of God unencumbered by human frailty, unlike the Bible. In contrast the apostles are human and like all human things are prone to error.”
Lord Pearson at the House of Lords with Geert Wilders and at a ‘counterjihad’ conference with Pamela Geller