Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Gladstone and religious tolerance

Someone who does not wish to identify him- or herself was inspired by a comment I made about Gladstone on another blog to write:
[I] wondered what you make of the fact that Gladstone called the Qur’an an “accursed book” and once held it up
during a session of Parliament, declaring: “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world."
Those of us who admire Gladstone must accept that he did have a blind spot when it came to toleration of religious institutions other than the Church of England. He was very well read on comparative religion, as the library at Hawarden testifies, yet this was one area where he was in my opinion illiberal. It was not just Islam he scorned. He was also fiercely against the Roman Catholic church for all his life. A choice description was "an Asian monarchy; nothing but one giddy height of despotism and one dead level of religious subservience". Yet he stood out against legal discrimination against Roman Catholics in the UK.

His antipathy to militant Islam may also have been fed by the reports of atrocities carried out by Turks in Bulgaria in 1876.

I am indebted to the biography of the great man by Roy Jenkins for the quotations. This book also shows how easy it was for people (provided they had the wherewithal) to move about Europe in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Gladstone spent a great deal of his time on the continent. UKIP would clearly not approve.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...


Good for you to address this Ffranc. Peter Black, who initially raised the issue, totally ignored the comments made.

Frank H Little said...

I am publishing the comment above only to avoid the charge of censorship. Peter surely had his own good reasons for not being side-tracked from the main point of his posting.

Frank H Little said...

A further comment has been censored because it became personal.