Tony Blair: Strands of Islam ‘not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies’

Alec Hill Contributor
Font Size:

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote Monday that “there is a problem within Islam, and we have to put it on the table and be honest about it” in an opinion piece published by Project Syndicate.

The piece focused on the state of radical Islam in the wake of the May 22 murder of British solider Lee Rigby by extremists in London. Arguing that the violence must be read as part of a larger pattern of acts inspired by a “profoundly dangerous” ideology, Blair contends that merely reacting to acts of terrorism on British soil is not enough.

Instead, Blair writes, “We are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect the United Kingdom simply by what we do at home. The ideology is out there. It is not diminishing.”

Rarely have politicians of any nationality been so vocal in their criticisms of Islam, and public figures that do so are occasionally threatened and harrassed by enraged Muslim communities in Western countries. Most notably, a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 triggered massive protests around the world.

Blair — who lead Britain from 1997-2007 and is perhaps best known in the U.S. as a faithful ally of the Bush administration during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan — painted a picture of the Middle East as deeply fractured and on the edge of total, “accelerating disintegration.”

Highlighting troubling developments in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, as well as Niger and Mali in Africa and Myanmar and Bangladesh in Southeast Asia, Blair finds one common strand:  exploding populations that are leading to disproportionately large quantities of young people in countries with little infrastructure to guide them.

Blair acknowledged the Western voices that discourage intervention in these countries, but insisted that “Our task is to help sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.” Without that, he argues, the moderate majority of the Muslim world is allowed to be controlled by a well organized radical minority that “has at its heart a view of religion – and of the relationship between religion and politics – that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”

Blair concluded by returning to the idea of young people in the Middle East: “We have to start with children, here and abroad. That is why I established a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths around the world to learn about each other and live with each other.”