Tony Blair: Global strategy needed to defeat religious extremism

The former Prime Minister argues that the battles of this century will be fueled by religious differences rather than political ideology

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Tony Blair has argued that the West needs to develop a global strategy to deal with terrorism and conflict sparked by religious extremism.

Pointing to war and violence across the world, including in Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines, he argued that the issue is a growing one.

Writing in The Observer, Mr Blair said: “The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion.

“It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.”

Rather than extreme political ideology that characterised conflicts of the 20th century, those of this century “could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference”, he purported, adding that the issue of extremism in not limited to Islam.

Referencing the Middle East and Iraq - which has been plunged into brutal sectarian violence following the invasion ordered by Mr Blair and George Bush - the former Prime Minister said religious tolerance must be promoted in order to make people feel equal and enable democracy to work.

“All over the region, and including in Iraq, where exactly the same sectarianism threatens the right of the people to a democratic future, such a campaign has to be actively waged,” he said, arguing that any plans to disengage from the Middle East is “wrong and short-sighted”.

This summer damaging evidence is expected to be released in the Chilcot report that the US and UK rushed into the invasion of Iraq, despite warnings that war could aggravate sectarian divides across the region.

Mr Blair’s comments come as The Telegraph published details of potential legal action against him by 200 victims of IRA terrorist attacks.

Lawyers for the victims allege that it is possible Mr Blair “connived” with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to ensure the former dictator paid no compensation to victims of the bomb attacks for which Libya had provided the Semtex.

The Telegraph claim that Mr Blair may have brokered an agreement between Gaddafi and Mr Bush which saw American victims of terrorist attacks funded by Libya paid £1 billion by the regime, but ended British victims’ hopes of receiving compensation.