Islamic extremism has to be acknowledged if we are to defeat Isis, Tony Blair says

The former prime minister said not recognising the nature of the problem made it impossible to tackle

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The Independent Online

Former prime minister Tony Blair has entered the controversy about tackling Isis - saying it is essential to recognise and acknowledge the rise of Islamic extremism if it is to be defeated.

“I actually use the word Islamist extremism. What I think is important is the need to distinguish Islamism which is political and at its extremes has violence,” he said. “What is important to recognise there is this totalitarian ideology, and balance that with saying that this is not what Islam is about.”

The US election debate has seen repeated allegations from Republican candidate Donald Trump that President Barack Obama, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, have refused to use the phrase “Islamic extremism”.

Ms Clinton and Mr Obama have responded by saying that the West must not fall victim to Isis’s efforts to engage in a battle of ideologies.

Tackling Muslim extremists in the US is made easier, they say, if you have the support of the broader community and do not demonise an entire religion.

Speaking at a forum in New York hosted by Reuters, Mr Blair added: “But if you refuse to acknowlege this is happening and that they are doing it in the name of religion. This is an ideology that will need a long time to defeat it. But there is no point in not calling it what it is.”

Mr Blair also predicted chaos if the United States elected an isolationist president, likening the withdrawal of America from world affairs to a soccer match without a referee.

Asked how he would advise Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, should he win the election, Mr Blair stopped short of labeling the New York tycoon an isolationist. But he praised Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, once the United States' top diplomat, and said the world needed US leadership and democratic values.

“If you turn away from what is happening in the world when those values are being undermined, you don't fulfill your destiny as a country,” Mr Blair said. “You have been given this destiny as a country. No one else can do this in the world today.”