The ideology which drives Islamic extremists has significant support from Muslims around the world, Tony Blair has warned. The former British prime minister said that unless religious prejudice in Muslim communities is rooted out, the threat from the extremists will not be defeated.
Speaking at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City, Blair said that while the numbers who engage in violence through groups like Islamic State are relatively small, many of their views are widely shared. “The conspiracy theories which illuminate much of the jihadi writings have significant support even amongst parts of the mainstream population of some Muslim countries,” he said.
“There are millions of schoolchildren 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.”
Blair acknowledged that attacking ideas which resonate in parts of mainstream Muslim society could appear to be an attack on Muslims rather than just extremists, but he said such concerns have to be overcome.
“The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”
Cherie Blair’s half-sister, 45, said she felt like men want to hit her when they see her wearing her traditional Islamic dress and a hijab head-covering. Ms Booth told ITV’s Daybreak: “When I came to Islam two years ago and I first put on the scarf I was nervous about going on the Underground, I thought everyone is going to see me differently, and everyone was beautiful towards me. “I was invisible for a few weeks and then I noticed that British people were smiling, same as we always do, we’re really good at that, we’re really good at absorbing and accepting people. “But honestly, in the last two weeks I’ve been getting public transport and there are grown men looking like they want to hit Muslim women, and I’m a tall, white woman, I’m not easily threatened, but I have felt scared at times, so there is a change unfortunately.”
Ms Booth’s brother-in-law, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, previously said there is a ‘problem within Islam’ which allows the seeds of extremism to be sown in the wake of the killing. Asked if he was right, Ms Booth replied: ‘Absolutely not, and I think it’s very dangerous to take a summary of a religion from a man who’s overseen the invasion of several Muslim countries, and overseen a war where a million people whom are Muslim have been killed and millions displaced, so I wouldn’t take that as a kind of basis for any information on Islam.’
Tony Blair has launched an attack on the “problem within Islam” in the wake of the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich at the hands of Islamist extremists.
The former Prime Minister said the ideology that inspired the act of terror that shocked Britain last month is “profound and dangerous”.
“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.
“But 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 said that while there are radical activists in other religions, the Islamic 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 said.
For many years there has been a spectrum of Muslim belief in this country ranging from unobtrusive Islamic observance to terrorist totalitarianism. The “problem” is that young British Muslims, some of them converts, are even now being propelled towards the terrorist end of the spectrum by preachers who embedded themselves here under the government of Tony Blair.
The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has stirred up debate as to whether the response to the attacks by the West was effective in diminishing the threat of terrorism. The Telegraph concludes that some elements were effective (such as improvements to the work of security services, which have succeeded in frustrating several attacks), but others were not. It is, therefore, a fact that the threat of attacks from terrorists inspired by Islam is as real as ever. For Islamism to wither into insignificance, more needs to be done ‘to ensure that Muslim communities within the West embrace the values of tolerance and respect that we cherish’. According to Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, it was vital to break up structures of isolation that were allegedly fostered by the state’s political multiculturalism. Similar plans were communicated by PM David Cameron earlier this year, when he claimed that state multiculturalism had to be replaced by a national identity that all can embrace (as reported).
Addressing the same issue, the Mirror reports that, on Saturday, Tony Blair warned on Radio 4 that the war on terror was not over yet. He said it was naive to believe that the West’s response to the 9/11 attacks had radicalised Muslims extremists. According to Blair, “(t)hey believe in what they believe in because they believe their religion compels them to believe in it”. The threat would only end, once this ideology was defeated.
12 February 2011
The sister-in-law of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair has said a rise in the number of Muslims in Britain would be “good for the country”. Journalist Lauren Booth – sister of Mr Blair’s wife Cherie – converted to Islam last year.
And she told a conference in Colchester, Essex, that since becoming a Muslim she was a “better worker” and a “better mother” to her two daughters. She told the University of Essex’s annual Islamic Conference that Britons were “seeking not to be afraid” of Muslims and wanted Muslims “to be happy”.
Ms Booth was asked how Mr and Mrs Blair had reacted to her conversion and said: “My sister … recognises that it is a great faith that people follow. Tony Blair is Tony Blair.”
“If the number of British Muslims increases you should know it will be only good for the country,” Ms Booth told the conference, in a lecture entitled My Journey to Islam.
3 November 2010
Journalist and broadcaster Lauren Booth, 43 – Tony Blair’s sister-in-law – has converted to Islam after having what she describes as a “holy experience” during a visit to Iran.
She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom. “It was a Tuesday evening and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy,” she said in an interview. When she returned to Britain, she decided to convert immediately at a London mosque.
Newspapers have commented widely on her decision and not always in a positive way. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, she explains why she took this step and what it means to her. She also throws light on Muslim women she met during her travels through Islamic countries, finding them very often in powerful and hard-working positions.
26 October 2010
Media commentator Rainer Stadler reminds us in this piece that migration, Islam, violence and criminality have become the daily bread and butter for the media. Whether concerning Tony Blair’s former sister-in-law, recently converted to Islam, or the ubiquitous claims of “failed integration,” the Swiss tabloid press has become more aggressive with regard to the political questions involving foreigners.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has recently come up with another trick: while rejecting the notion that talk show journalism has a significant effect on public debate on Tele Züri, politician Christoph Mörgeli prominently wore a tie sporting the SVP’s now-famous sheep placard (showing a black sheep getting literally kicked out of a Switzerland populated by white sheep).
She made it clear she abhorred “war on terror” rhetoric and the government’s abandoned plans to hold terrorism suspects for 42 days without charge. She also criticised politicians including Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, for trying to outbid each other in their opposition to terrorism and making national security a partisan issue. “National security has become much more of a political issue than it ever was in my day,” she said. “Parties are tending to use it as a way of trying to get at the other side. You know, ‘We’re more tough on terrorism than you are.’ I think that’s a bad move, quite frankly.” Rimington mentioned Guantánamo Bay, the practice of extraordinary rendition, and the invasion of Iraq – three issues which the majority in Britain’s security and intelligence establishment opposed privately at the time. She also challenged claims, notably made by Tony Blair, that the war in Iraq was not related to the radicalisation of Muslim youth in Britain. Asked what impact the war had on the terrorist threat, she replied: “Well, I think all one can do is look at what those people who’ve been arrested or have left suicide videos say about their motivation. And most of them, as far as I’m aware, say that the war in Iraq played a significant part in persuading them that this is the right course of action to take.
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The arrests of three men from Blackburn over terror offences are linked to an investigation into threats to kill the Prime Minister, it has been reported. The men are being held in connection with website threats against Gordon Brown and former PM Tony Blair, the BBC said. It was also reported that the threats included a demand for the release of Muslim prisoners from Belmarsh high-security prison in London. The claims shocked East Lancashire community leaders but they were quick to stress how strong community relations are in the area. Two men from Blackburn were arrested at Manchester Airport on Thursday, August 14. Another man, also from Blackburn, was arrested at his workplace, Express Gifts, in Church. It is believed two of the suspects were on their way to Iceland when they were arrested, although the BBC reported that they were going to Finland. Police have declined to name the three men, aged 21, 22 and 23. It is understood two of the suspects are from Percival Street, off Whalley Range, and the third is a friend of theirs from Cromwell Street, off Audley Range.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=D59CC50E870D2421232015FD&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News
Tony Blair will today spell out why he believes faith and young people can solve the problems of the world and will call on religious leaders to work together to “awaken the world’s conscience. In his first major speech in the UK since leaving Downing Street last year, the former Prime Minister will address the whole area of faith in a global context, a subject about which he is passionate. Mr Blair is expected to be greeted by anti-Iraq war protesters when he speaks this evening at Westminster Cathedral, the UK’s Roman Catholic flagship and Mr Blair’s spiritual home for his time in London as Prime Minister. The cathedral has attained even more significance since his conversion to Roman Catholicism shortly before Christmas last year. Mr Blair, a Middle East peace envoy, will use the speech to flag up the work of his new Tony Blair Faith Foundation which he will launch officially next month. He has high earning capacity as a popular and charismatic speaker. Earlier this year he earned $300,000 for a speech to the banking giant Goldman Sachs in Florida, and last year he earned _240,000 in Dongguan, southern China. Ruth Gledhill reports.