Tony Blair says majority in Muslim countries support ideals of extremism

The former Prime Minister said alliances must be built with Muslims who 'feel a deep sense of outrage at the hijacking of their religion'

Jess Staufenberg
Wednesday 07 October 2015 12:36 BST
Tony Blair has said the ideologies of Islamic extremism needed to be consigned to the "junkyard of mistaken ideology"
Tony Blair has said the ideologies of Islamic extremism needed to be consigned to the "junkyard of mistaken ideology"

The religious ideas behind Islamic extremism enjoy the support of many Muslim countries and are not just consigned to terrorists, Tony Blair has said.

Increased security measures do not deal with the "roots" of the problem - the world must sign up to a new "education around culture and faith" to combat Islamist ideology, according to the former Prime Minister.

Speaking in New York at the September 11 Memorial and Museum, Mr Blair cited his thinktank the Faith Foundation's report titled "Inside the Jihadi Mind" as showing that alliances needed to be built with Muslims who "feel a deep sense of outrage at the hijacking of their religion."

Mr Blair has been peace envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet, a diplomatic body made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN, for nearly eight years with special responsibility for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He has just taken on a new role with the European Council tackling anti-semitism, following accusations from Palestinian diplomats that he was too sympathetic to Israel to be effective in his former role.

Fighters from Isis parading in Raqqa, northern Syria, where the ‘Islamic State’ has its capital

He said in his speech that many Muslims do feel that the West is hostile to Islam.

"If large numbers of people really do believe that the desire of the USA or the West is to disrespect or oppress Islam, then it is not surprising that some find recourse to violence acceptable in order to re-assert the ‘dignity’ of the oppressed," he said in his speech.

“There are millions of school children every day in countries round the world – not just in the Middle East – who are taught a view of the world and of their religion which is narrow-minded, prejudicial and therefore in the context of a globalised world, dangerous.”

But Mr Blair identified extreme Islamism as the greatest threat to glocal security, saying Jewish or Christian terrorism were "isolated but still horrible acts of violence."

He added that many in majority Muslim countries - though no countries, such as Saudi Arabia, considered a funder of extremist groups and with good diplomatic relations to the UK, were mentioned - followed many extremists in thinking that a caliphate might be coming.

"The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful co-existence," he said.

However, he also said majorities in most Muslim countries did in fact support democracy and equal rights for women, and wanted a liberal and modern interpretation of Sharia law. These groups must be allied with to build a "Global Commitment on Education" which teaches "what it means to live in a culture in which all cultures are treated equally," he said.

In his speech in New York the former PM added that, just as carbon emissions is now seen as a global responsibility and not the choice of individual countries, "so it should be with education around culture and faith."

Mr Blair's speech concluded with a point about the death of Marxism and Fascism in earlier decades: "This perversion of Islam can and will be consigned to the same junkyard of mistaken ideology as the secular ones of the 20th century."

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