Friday, June 07, 2013

Tony Blair on Violent Islamism

In an article first published in the Mail on Sunday (June 2, 2013), but reprinted by the Office of Tony Blair, Britain's former prime minister, offends against political correctness to proclaim:
"The ideology behind Lee Rigby's murder is profound and dangerous. We must take on this extremism."
He first addresses the recent murder of Lee Rigby at the hands, knives, and cleavers of two violent Islamists:
There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance. One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance. Crazy people do crazy things . . . . The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it, is profound and dangerous. I am of this latter view . . . . [W]e are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect [ourselves] . . . simply by what we do here [in the West]. The ideology is out there [in the world]. It isn't diminishing.
Indeed, it seems to be growing. Blair appears to think so himself and points to violet Islamism's worldwide prevalence, in both Sunni and Shia variants, whose violent adherents hate each other as heretics, in addition to hating infidels:
The Syrian opposition is made up . . . increasingly [by] the [Sunni] Al Qaida affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country . . . . [Shia] Iran pushes Hizbollah into the battle. Al Qaida is back trying to cause carnage [to Shias] in Iraq and Iran continues its gruesome meddling there. To the South in Egypt and across North Africa, Muslim Brotherhood [Sunni Islamist] parties are in power but . . . face growing instability and pressure from more extreme groups [of violent Islamists]. Then there is the Iranian regime, still intent on getting a nuclear weapon, still exporting terror and instability to the West and the East of it. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is facing awful terror attacks [from Sunni Islamists]. In Mali France was fighting a pretty tough battle [with Sunni Islamists]. And we haven't mentioned Pakistan [-- Sunni and Shia Islamists there --] or Yemen [with its Sunni Islamists]. Go to the Far East and look at the Western border between Burma and Bangladesh [mostly Sunni]. Look at recent events in Bangladesh itself [with its largely Sunni Islamist parties] or the Mindanao dispute in the [mostly Sunni] Muslim region of the Philippines.
Blair could almost be Samuel Huntington mapping out Islam's "bloody borders" -- except that he doesn't borrow that expression -- but he does find a common thread in the violence:
I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course "crazy people". But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all? . . . . [T]here is a problem within Islam -- from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it . . . . I am afraid 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. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don't admit it.
But we have to speak up, says Blair:
First [because] those with that view [that Islam should dominate politics] think we are weak [in our silence] and that gives them strength. Second . . . [because the] Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view . . . . are a significant minority, loud and well organised [but still just a minority].
Blair goes on to advocate military engagement where necessary, security measures where possible, and education about modern religious understanding of religion and state everywhere. All well and good where well and good.

The most interesting aspect of Blair's remarks is his willingness to state that the problem of Islamist violence cannot be explained by local circumstances, but is rather a worldwide, ideologically inspired phenomenon. That's been quite clear for some time to many of us, but Blair's willingness to break with a narrowly restrictive political correctness is refreshing.

We may eventually hear prominent voices going further . . .

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