There was a heated argument between news presenter Piers Morgan and Tommy Robinson. Here is the video for those interested.

He makes a claim:

Sir William Gladstone held this book above his head in Parliament and said "There will never be peace on this Earth so long as we have this book. It's a violent and cursed book."

I am trying to verify the William Gladstone quote and I get results from what seem to be very biased sources.

Is this quote correct?

  • 6
    If Gladstone said it in parliament, it would be recorded in Hansard. I have searched for the phrase, variations of the phrase, and variations of the versions in the answer by @Sklivvz without success.
    – Senex
    Mar 11, 2018 at 13:27
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    @Senex: This is a good point, thanks. However, it appears that Hansard was not necessarily regarded as entirely complete and accurate during Gladstone's era - it was a privately produced record that, at least during some period, relied on newspaper accounts rather than their own reporters. So there's a grain of salt to be taken. Mar 11, 2018 at 14:28
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    @NateEldredge Good point. I didn't know that it was not so accurate at that time. There is also the possibility of OCR problems. In any case, I don't claim that it proves that he didn't say something along those lines in parliament. It is simply a piece of evidence in that direction, which, as you say, must be taken with a grain of salt.
    – Senex
    Mar 11, 2018 at 14:51
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    Some background on Gladstone's attitudes to Islam: he mentions Islam (or, as he calls it, "Mahometanism") in this book, where seems to be at pains to distinguish Islam from his attack on "The Turk", who, he says, are "not the mild Mahometans of India, nor the chivalrous Saladins of Syria, nor the cultured Moors of Spain" (p.12).
    – Senex
    Mar 11, 2018 at 15:06

3 Answers 3


As explained in The Muslim Brotherhood and the West: A History of Enmity and Engagement:

The first few months of the year [1951] brought a new rush of anti-British rhetoric in the Egyptian press [reference 75 of chapter 4]. The Brotherhood was a leading purveyor of this invective, with the group's newspaper stressing the iniquitous role played by “the English,” not just in Egypt but also across the region (in Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Jordan, Libya, India, Pakistan, and Iran).[reference 76]. A new take was provided on Britain's alleged historical animus against Islam by reference to nineteenth century prime minister William Gladstone, who was said to have told the House of Commons, while holding up a copy of the Qur'an, that there would be “no peace for the empire . . as long as this book exists.” [reference 77] This anecdote would become a familiar one in Brotherhood circles, offered as proof of Britain's abiding enmity toward Islam. [reference 78]


It is telling, for instance, that in 2015, the Brotherhood's spokesman in the United Kingdom felt it necessary to repeat a fanciful story that “demonstrated” nineteenth-century British prime minister William Gladstone's hatred for Islam. As described in Chapter 4, this tale had been circulating in Brotherhood circles since at least the 1950s, though Abdullah al-Haddad's version contained the added twist of Gladstone tearing up a copy of the Qur'an on the floor of the House of Commons.[reference 15 of Conclusion].

An early English-language example of the supposed quote, as published in Muslimnews International, May 1967, is:

Mr. Gladstone once said to the House of Commons (and he held a copy of Al-Qur'an in his hand) "So long as the Egyptians have got this book with them, we will never be able to enjoy quiet or peace in that land."

Note that the 1970 book (quoted in wikiquotes and another answer) Army officers in Arab politics and society, which is a translation of a 1966 Hebrew book, says:

In His memoirs Salah al-Din Sabbagh devoted a number of chapters to the principles in which he believed. ... He wrote :

"I don't believe in the democracy of the English, the Nazism of the Germans or the Bolshevism of the Russians. I am a Muslim Arab, and for me there is no substitute for this among all the views and philosophies; I want no comparison or preference among them as this is sterile and meaningless, for wherever I turn, I see the foreign wolf preying upon and torturing my nation— in the Mediterranean, Oman, the Persian Gulf, in the heart of the Arabian peninsula and near the tomb of the Prophet."

"There is no more murderous wolf for the Arabs and no deadlier foe of Islam than Britain. As for the Arabs they have been torn apart into small countries, communities and tribes that fight each other ... If Arabs seeking freedom rise up in Palestine, Egypt, Aden, the seven shaykhdoms and Iraq, the guillotine is sharpened for them and bombers are loaded with fire. Three hundred and fifty million Muslims are still groaning under the yoke of British imperialism. The bloody 'Lion-Heart' of the Crusaders' wars was an Englishman and so was Allenby, who conquered Jerusalem and said, 'Now the Crusades are over,' and so was Gladstone, who threw the Quran into a closet and said, 'There will be no quiet in the world as long as this remains,' and so was Cromer who said, 'Only this Quran impedes civilization.'"

A true quote by Gladstone about the Koran is, as published in his article Montenegro: A Sketch The Nineteenth Century, volume 1, issue III, May 1877, pages 360-379:

Before them, as before others, lay the trinoda necessitas, the alternatives of death, slavery, or the Koran. They were not to die, for they had a work to do. To the Koran or to slavery they preferred a life of cold, want, hardship, and perpetual peril.


I found a much older source of the claim, a German translation of a 1915 fatwa, published as Kriegsurkunden. 17. Fatwa des Scheich es-Saijid Hibet ed-Din esch-Schahrastani en-Nedschefi über die Freundschaft der Muslime mit den Deutschen Die Welt des Islams Bd. 4, H. 3/4 (Mar. 15, 1917), pp. 217-225, at page 220:

Ihr werdet Wohl alle von jenem Wort Gladstone's des englischen Ministers des Äußern, gehort haben das er im englischen Parlament gesagt hat:

"So lange noch der Koran des Mohammed als ein himmlisches Buch betrachtet wird, kann unsere Sache nicht vowärts gehen"

According to a recent book titled Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, at page 42, this is a fabricated quote.

  • 3
    So it seems Tommy Robinson has found himself repeating anti-British Islamist propaganda from the 1950s... Mar 12, 2018 at 15:33
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    Your true Gladstone quote is very hard to interpret without further context, incidentally: it seems to be talking about a Balkan community who fled to the hills in the 1400s to maintain some sort of free life in the face of Ottoman invasion, and doesn't seem to say much if anything about the Koran itself (just that Gladstone admired people who chose hardship before subjugation). Mar 12, 2018 at 15:34
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    @user568458 Yes, he is talking about Montenegrins in 1484, but acknowledging that others have faced the choice being conversion to Islam, and death or slavery. By "Koran" he means following the teachings of the Koran, in other words converting or appear to convert to Islam.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 12, 2018 at 15:52
  • OK, thx. (Proto-nazis means that most of the aims and policies later implemented were thought of in imperial Germany, East-expansion, total war etc… Quite a few real PG Nazis were also homosexuals. Loving strong men in uniforms…) If you like: I think making it clear that the book talks about WWI and German strategies then, trying to incite jihad would be of benefit(and later probably reused in some form during WW2. Mar 12, 2018 at 22:58
  • Also, if you integrate this and "The Mind of Gladstone Religion, Homer, and Politics" by Bebbington this is really rounded off. Mar 12, 2018 at 23:11

Gladstone did not say this or anything like it in the House of Commons as claimed.

It is a simple matter to check every time Gladstone said the word 'book' in the House of Commons, and none of them are anything like the claim.

Since Tommy Robinson's claim is explicitly that he said this in the Commons we know that it is false. We also know that at the very least that the authors quoted in other answers have not done their research properly. Because something is written in a published book does not automatically mean it is correct. Please also see and vote up DavePhD's excellent well-researched answer.

It is conceivable that he made a similar claim outside the Commons, or that it was not recorded in Hansard (Hansard was not an exhaustive record that far back) but the absence of times or dates, the inconsistency of the statement with Gladstone's other verified statements, and the absence of any mentions of this statement prior to the 1950s cast serious doubt on that.

  • 6
    Hansard's search is badly buggy as it doesn't find any results for "so long as" said by Gladstone, which instead he has said; you are also assuming that the quote must contain the word book. Perhaps it's a paraphrase, and you are just searching wrong...
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 11, 2018 at 17:22
  • What version of the phrase do you suggest might exist that does not contain the word book? Mar 11, 2018 at 17:50
  • Hansard's multiple-term search is indeed buggy, but I have no reason to think that its single-term search is buggy. Searching for 'long' returns the phrase you note. Mar 11, 2018 at 17:58
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    @DJClayworth The version of the quote in the 1970 book, which is quoting the memoirs of Salah al-Din Sabbagh, does not contain the word "book".
    – DavePhD
    Mar 12, 2018 at 16:54
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    This isn't a convincing answer, because we can't tell if you have used the right search terms (especially with paraphrasing) and that the search tool you are using is complete. See the Negative searches section in this FAQ.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 19, 2018 at 12:17

Wikiquote gives this as verified (it has been changed by someone after writing this answer):

So long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world.

  • Holding up a Qur'an in the House of Commons; quoted in Rafiq Zakaria, Muhammad and the Quran (Penguin Books, 1991), p. 59.
    • Variant: "As long as a copy of this accursed book survives there can be no justice in the world." Quoted in Paul G. Lauren, ed., The China Hands' Legacy: Ethics and Diplomacy (Westview Press, 1987), p. 136.
    • «Gladstone...threw the Quran into a closet and said, 'There will be no quiet in the world as long as this remains.'» Reported in Army Officers in Arab Politics and Society (1970) by Eliezer Bee̓ri, p. 367.

I've verified the sources:

Muhammad and the Quran, page 59
source: Muhammad and the Quran, page 59

The China Hands' legacy: ethics and diplomacy, page 136
source: The China Hands' legacy: ethics and diplomacy, page 136

Army officers in Arab politics and society, page 367 source: Army officers in Arab politics and society, page 367

There's another earlier source attributing something similar to Gladstone (hat tip: DavePHD):

Muslimnews International, Volume 5

source: Muslimnews International, Volume 5

First of all, the quote seems to be a paraphrase. We know this because we can see different versions of it. Secondly there are different sources, yet of course this proves only that people have believed he did say that as early as 50 years ago. On the other hand, we know from DJ Clayworth's answer that no statement of this kind, containing the word "book" is recorded in the annals of the House of Common from his period, which means that either what he said was still a bit different, that it was not recorded correctly (as it's very possible in this case) or that he simply did not say it. We don't have definitive proof so far.

This is a poor attempt at an argument from authority. He was also a convinced slave owner, who opposed the abolition of slavery: should we support slavery because he did?

  • I wonder why one mentions throwing it into the closet. I'm really sceptical about these sort of potential Chinese whispers games played with historical quotes. Though this is the best evidence I'm going to get, so thanks.
    – Zebrafish
    Mar 11, 2018 at 9:13
  • "On the other hand, this is a poor attempt at an argument from authority ..." - while your statement about his ownership of slaves and his defence of slavery is factually correct, and I regard slavery as morally repugnant both now and back then, the relevance of this to the quote is a matter of opinion.
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 11, 2018 at 9:32
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    I am not convinced by these sources. How do these authors know that Gladstone said this? He died in 1898, so none of them were around to hear it personally; these aren't primary sources. So they must have read somewhere else. But where? I can't tell from these excerpts if they cite their sources. Anyway, maybe these later secondary sources are good enough for Wikiquote, but I don't think they're good enough for Skeptics. Mar 11, 2018 at 14:18
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    @Sklivvz There is an older version of the fake quote here "Mr. Gladstone once said to the House of Commons (and he held a copy of Al-Qur'an in his hand) 'So long as the Egyptians have got this book with them, we will never be able to enjoy quiet or peace in that land'." Muslim News International, May 1967
    – DavePhD
    Mar 12, 2018 at 1:35
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    @Sklivvz page 161 of the following book says the supposed quote was spread by the Brotherhood in Egyptian newspapers beginning in the early months of 1951. books.google.com/… A pre-1950 reference is needed to have any credibility
    – DavePhD
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:23

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