26 Jan 2014

Blair: West needs new strategy for religious extremism

Tony Blair warns that extreme religion, not politics, is at the heart of global terrorist acts and that the West needs to change its strategy to deal with radical beliefs.

Tony Blair (picture: Getty)

The former prime minister wrote in the Observer that the battles of the 21st century will no longer be dominated by extreme political ideology, as they were in the last century.

There is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith. Tony Blair

“The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion,” he wrote.

“It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.

“There is no doubt either that this phenomenon is growing, not abating.”

He said recent terror attacks and violence, from Syria to Iraq, Pakistan to Russia, cannot be viewed as separate acts of killing but need a global strategy.

“The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology – like those of the 20th century – but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference,” he added.

Mr Blair, who has faced strong criticism as the head of the government that took Britain into war with Iraq, said that education must be used by the West to battle global extremism.

He wrote: “The answer is to promote views that are open-minded and tolerant towards those who are different, and to fight the formal, informal and internet propagation of closed-minded intolerance.

“In the 21st century, education is a security issue.”