Tony Blair: 'Teach virtues of religious respect to counter terrorism'

Former prime minister believes education is the answer to extremism

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair is calling for an urgent global agreement to teach religious respect as he warns that action against extremist groups will otherwise "count for nothing".

In an essay for the BBC, the former prime minister said the underlying causes of religious conflict must be confronted through educating young people, although he made exceptions for violent organisations such as the Islamic State.

An agreement to improve interfaith relations would address the principal cause of terrorism-related activity as leaders must “uproot the thinking of the extremists, not simply disrupt their actions,” he suggested.

Mr Blair said defeated extremist groups will simply be replaced by new ones which continue to spread extreme ideologies if the root causes are not tackled.

"Unless we begin to confront the underlying causes each time we take on a group like Isis (Islamic State) another will quickly arise to take its place," he said.

Writing in the BBC, he said the rise of extremist groups such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are a “perversion of faith that has been growing unchecked”.

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Millions marching in London as part of a campaign to prevent the Iraq invasion in 2003

Mr Blair said: "We need at the G20, or some other appropriate forum, as soon as we can, to raise this issue as a matter of urgent global importance and work on a common charter to be accepted by all nations, and endorsed by the UN, which makes it a common obligation to ensure that throughout our education systems, we're committed to teaching the virtue of religious respect."

After making his argument for advocating interfaith understanding and tolerance, he stated that he is not opposed to single-faith schools.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which was established by the former Labour leader in 2008, aims to work against religious prejudice by influencing 12-17 year olds in 30 countries, including Pakistan, the US and Singapore.

Mr Blair has been criticised over sending troops into more wars than any other prime minister in history, with military intervention in Iraq twice, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan within six years.

He was also controversially awarded “Philanthropist of the Year” by GQ last month and was appointed the official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East in 2007.

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