Former Ukip leader Lord Pearson told the House of Lords on Tuesday that there was a growing "dark side" within British Muslims. He was met with a critique from a fictional American president.
Lord Pearson, who is perhaps best known for getting caught out not having read his own party's manifesto while leader at the 2010 election, used a debate he tabled yesterday to warn of the particular dangers of terrorism from Islam.
"I fear that the dark side is moving strongly within Islam," he said. "If we come home to the United Kingdom, we see large and growing Muslim communities which are set against integration with the rest of us; we see thousands of home-grown potential terrorists; we see Sharia law running de facto in our land; and we see a birth rate several times higher than ours, to which our democracy is already exposed."
In his speech, Lord Pearson said "part of Islam’s problem" were sections of the Koran that "commands the faithful to kill the unbelievers".
Baroness Warsi, Britain's most senior Muslim politician, was given the job of responding to Lord Pearson for the government. The Foreign Office minister decided to turn to political drama The West Wing to make her point. The Tory peer quoted from an episode in which President Bartlet slaps down a right-wing Christian radio presenter for her anti-gay views.
President Bartlet: "I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination”.
The TV presenter: "I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does”.
President Bartlet: “Yes it does. Leviticus 18:22. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here.
"I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?.
"While thinking about that, can I ask you another question? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?
"Here’s one that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?
"Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?".
Baroness Warsi told the Lords: "I could not make this point more clearly. These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief and indeed have been manipulated in the past. But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith. It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed."
The peer performed the part well, even if she did have to look at the script a couple of times and left out the bit where the president calls the presenter an "ignorant tight ass". Here's the original West Wing, rather than Westminster, version.
Baroness Warsi recently visited Washington DC to deliver a series of speeches on faith and to highlight the persecution of Christians around the world. She told Lord Pearson not use his position in parliament to tell "scare stories" about any one religion.
"Deep, entrenched anti-Muslim bigotry goes against everything this great nation stands for," she said. "I am concerned that the deeper Islamophobia seeps into our culture, the easier becomes the task of extremists recruiting."