Blair says extremism within Islam can’t be ignored

Blair says extremism within Islam can’t be ignored

Mideast peace envoy and former British PM calls for intervention to ‘sow the seeds of peace’ in order to protect home front

Tony Blair (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Tony Blair (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Former British prime minister Tony Blair launched a scathing attack on fundamentalist Islam Sunday, writing that the West needs to admit that there is an ideological problem within the religion.

Writing in the Daily Mail about last month’s gruesome murder in London of soldier Lee Rigby, in what officials have said was an Islamic terror attack, Blair said that the extremist worldview within Islam went “deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit.”

“There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it,” he wrote.

Blair, the Middle East Quartet’s peace envoy, recently returned from the World Economic Meeting in Jordan, where he was tasked with helping galvanize a $4 billion investment in the Palestinian economy, a move touted by US Secretary of State John Kerry as a key step toward peace.

In the Daily Mail piece, he compared Islamic terror to communism and called for increased intervention across the Muslim world to help combat extremism before it could sprout, saying Britain cannot be protected by only acting locally.

“The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace,” he wrote. “We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad… We are now in 20 countries and the programs work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many.”

Rattling off a laundry list of rising manifestations of extremism in the Muslim world, from al-Qaeda-linked rebels fighting in Syria to the Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, Blair said it would be naive to ignore the “common thread” linking problems from North Africa to the Far East.

“This strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies,” he wrote

Blair, who’s sister-in-law converted to Islam and who told the Observer magazine in 2011 that he reads the Koran every day, also praised the religion, saying that moderates were the majority, albeit not as well organized as extremists.

“There is not a problem with Islam,” he wrote. “For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.”

Rigby was hacked to death in broad daylight in southeast London last month. The two suspected attackers are Muslim converts from Nigeria who embraced extremism after joining Islam, according to reports.

There has been a surge in anti-Muslim protests and attacks on mosques since the May 22 killing.

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