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13th November, 2010
TONY BLAIR’S NARRATIVE ON ISLAMIST TERRORISM
THE HINTS, NODS AND WINKS
Excellent opinion piece, joining the dots. Admittedly I am still a little uncertain as to what EXACTLY we are meant to have an “honest debate” about. If we are really being honest I suggest there are two important words missing. More on them later. Perhaps you’ll even identify them before you get to the end.
Clue: they are not “western imperialism”.
Tony Blair speaking at McGill University, Montreal, at the Canadian launch of his Faith Foundation course. He said that future leaders must understand the role of religion.
Picture above from Montreal’s CTV website
This article by Tony Blair at the Wall Street Journal is, regardless of my remaining provisos, truly ground-breaking.
Why? Not because it questions how multiculturalism has or hasn’t worked in Britain, though it does that; obliquely.
“In the United Kingdom, immigration was a key issue in the last election.”
Nor because it refers to Islamist extremism/terror, which it does, more or less, when many in governments, politics and the media still choose despite the daily evidence to describe it as “international extremism/terror”. This particular extremism’s paternity is highlighted, albeit by inference.
“We will not defeat extremism (and the fear it then produces in our societies) until we defeat its narrative. This narrative is Islam as a victim of the West, locked in an inevitable cultural conflict with it.”
Nor because he seems to ask indirectly the Muslim majority to stand up and be counted. Those who, presumably, eschew terrorism.
“It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it.”
After which gentle reminder he elaborates, as often before (see “defeating the narrative”) –
“This narrative is global. Its ideology is global. It has to be confronted as such. But we are nowhere near doing that. It is funding websites, training its adherents, spreading its message. It is conducting a campaign, occasionally by violence, often by propaganda.”
He also referred to this recently:
“We should wake up to the absurdity of our surprise at the prevalence of this extremism. Look at the funds it receives. Examine the education systems that succour it. And then measure, over the years, the paucity of our counter-attack in the name of peaceful co-existence. We have been outspent, outmanoeuvred and out-strategised.” Warning that it was impossible to defeat extremism ”without defeating the narrative that nurtures it”, Blair added: ”We think if we sympathise with the narrative – that essentially this extremism has arisen as a result, partly, of our actions – we meet it halfway, we help the modernisers to be more persuasive. We don’t. We indulge it and we weaken them. Worse, a reaction springs up amongst our people that we are pandering to this narrative and they start to resent Muslims as a whole.”
This, as is to be expected by the tying themselves in knots anti-Iraq war brigade was beyond David Hughes at The Telegraph. It isn’t beyond most of us, Mr Hughes. The most important part for me in the quote used by David Hughes, is the phrase I have emboldened above. You, Mr Hughes, are part of that denial system. You have morphed your dislike of Blair’s decision on Iraq into a denial of any threat from Islamist terrorism. You are not alone.
So why, since he has said much of this before, do I say this is a groundbreaking article?
Also to be seen at his own website it is ground-breaking for at least two reasons.
One, because he is saying it. He hasn’t always spoken in this way; not entirely. Though he has to an extent on the issue of “This Terrorism.” At his final address to conference, September 2006 his speech was hailed as probably his best. If you haven’t read it, do so now, please. I called it and him, ‘Simply The Best’. This was more than four years ago. (To save you clicking away I’ll add the relevant excerpt here below.)
Two, because few of influence or power in British politics ever mentions anything like this in anything like such an expansive manner. They haven’t in recent years, and they don’t now. But Blair did so, at least to a “heads up” extent some time ago. He was right then and he is even more right now.
[Above picture from The Religion of Conquest]
Excerpt from a linked and extensive article on Islam, sourced from Catholic.com – Endless Jihad
‘Muslim apologists also rushed forward to assure the public that Islam was a peaceful religion. They disingenuously declared that the word Islam means “peace.” And they tried to portray the terrorists as a fringe group outside the mainstream of Islam.
These were lies.
The usual meaning of Islam in Arabic is not “peace” but “submission.” And if the terrorists were so far outside the mainstream, why did Muslims all over the world burst into joyful, spontaneous celebrations when the hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Why are Islamic governments afraid to show “too much” public support for the war against terrorism? Further, why are all the governments that covertly support terrorism centered in the Muslim world?
The truth is that Islam is not a religion of peace. This is not to say that every Muslim is violent at heart. Many are not. Muslims have the same.aspirations for living peaceful lives that people have the world over. But they also have the same potential for violence as others, and Islam as a religion and an ideology seeks to exploit that potential.
Though there are millions of Muslims who want peaceful relations with the West, millions who.aspire to live in free societies like America, there nevertheless remains a deep and powerful strain of violence within Islam, and it is important that Americans understand it.
They will have to face it in the future.’
More here on The Muslim Worldview, where the two missing words ARE mentioned.
BUT FIRST – PARTING COMPANY WITH MR BLAIR’S PIECE – in one and a half ways
So, despite my praise for his breaking cover on the whole issue of who is to blame for Islamist terrorism, I am not in full agreement with Mr Blair on ALL of this. Nor do I think that he has gone far enough. Fortunately, he expects this. He acknowledges that we are never satisfied , whichever side of the fence we are on. Where do I differ with him?
1. WHAT KIND OF ‘PHOBIA’?
From this side of the fence, I disagree fundamentally that Geert Wilders’ party is “Islamophobic” as Mr Blair describes it. I do not claim that Wilders’ party does NOT fear the continuing, seemingly relentless rise and influence of Islam, nor that it aims to stop this particular immigration. Nor do I argue that stopping Muslim immigration is Wilders’ party’s USP. It clearly is. He says that he wants “less Islam in Europe”.
But Mr Blair will know that a phobia is an irrational fear.
See – Telegraph: Geert Wilders is not ‘far right’
The use of the word “Islamophobic” in reference to Mr Wilders is as misleading as is the word “racist” towards those who feel visceral and even general distrust of Muslims, for some reason or another. And let’s start by admitting that there are plenty of reasons.
It is hardly a "phobia" when they're out to kill you
There is nothing irrational about the fear of Islamist terror. Nor, while this terrorism continues and also continues NOT to be disowned by the majority of Muslims worldwide in a COMBINED, CO-ORDINATED AND CONCERTED effort, is there anything irrational about fearing Islam itself. The two are kind of, sort of … linked, to the rational amongst us.
We cannot hope to halt “irrational” fears, phobias or even rational fears from any and every source for many and varied reasons until we recognise that these fears are multi-faceted. We need to start naming and dealing with each and all of those facets.
2. “OCCASIONAL” VIOLENCE?
Another difference I have with Mr Blair is this: “It is conducting a campaign, occasionally by violence, often by propaganda.”
“Occasionally” by violence”? My choice of word would have been “frequently” or even “daily”. Certainly not just “occasionally”. It is often by propaganda, which the west swallows happily. So that’s just a half disagreement.
Recent violence by Islamist terrorists, thanks to the Religion of Peace website, which logs such violence.
A child is stretchered to hospital after an attack by Islamist extremists
A few recent examples of Muslim/extremist/fundamentalist/Islamist/Islamic (or whatever we’re permitted to call it) violence listed below. There will be more by the end of the day, I’m sure:
2010.11.11 (Peshawar, Pakistan) – A women and her daughter are among three people crushed to death in their own home by a Taliban rocket attack.
2010.11.11 (Makhachkala, Dagestan) – Muslim rebels attack and kill seven cops.
2010.11.10 (Mosul, Iraq) – A young girl is taken down by Muslim gunmen.
2010.11.10 (Iskandariya, Iraq) – Mujhideen murder three brothers with a bomb hidden at a water pump.
2010.11.10 (Baghdad, Iraq) – Islamists blast Christian areas of Baghdad with bombs and mortars, killing at least six.
2010.11.10 (Pattan, India) – Islamic militants brutally shoot two security personnel to death at point blank range in a market.
2010.11.09 (Pattani, Thailand) – A 17-year-old boy is ambushed and killed by Mujahideen.
2010.11.09 (Narathiwat, Thailand) – A woman is gunned down by Islamic insurgents.
2010.11.09 (Uruzgan, Afghanistan) – Religious extremists attack a police station, killing at least seven inside.
2010.11.09 (Pattani, Thailand) – A Buddhist man is murdered by Muslim gunmen.
WHERE IS THE CHILD?
Just because Christmas is approaching, DON’T PANIC at this sub-heading. I’m not gazing at the stars for a new christ-child, or Muslim equivalent. But some of you will know that Islam permits a child to preach to men. (Never a female child, and not preaching to women, of course).
So, where is the Muslim child who given his mosque platform will stand up in Friday prayers and say – “a worldwide caliphate is NOT what Allah instructed when he spoke to the Messenger”?
An older authority will do? Anyone?
Today’s news is that Syrian-born Omar Bakri Mohammed, Hizb ut-Tahrir founder, aka known as the “Tottenham Ayatollah”, who left Britain after 7/7 in 2005 and was then banned from returning, has been found guilty in Lebanon of raising money for Al Qaeda. He was found guilty in his absence. Absent of course, because like the now imprisoned would-be murderer of a British MP, he is above “manmade law” – nice one! His reaction to his sentence and the court in Lebanon is an example of how powerful this “child” will need to be.
Sharia law, the unman-made law, insists that no Muslim is accountable to any law imposed by one’s human peers.
It seems, according to this handy bit of widely quoted Koranic scripture passed from the unquestionable prophet Mohammed, that only Allah has legitimate power over the whole of the world. A useful cop-out, don’t you think? And here’s another one:
No-one is permitted, by order of The Messenger, to question the Messenger’s relay of Allah’s words.
But Omar Bakri’s sentence is interesting. Anjem Choudary next? Can we send him on an extended holiday to Lebanon where they seem to recognise a would-be terrorist/inciter far easier than we do?
As for how much further I think Mr Blair should have gone, there are (at least) these two –
JIHAD AND CALIPHATE
The two missing words are JIHAD and CALIPHATE.
Without mentioning these we have even not started the debate.
Where in this article is Mr Blair tackling the fundamentalists’ calls for caliphate AND world-wide domination AND the, presumably preceding and oft-called for jihad against all infidels and kufars, non-Muslim or not? Where is he saying expressly that imams with global power need to discuss this and get the message out that they do not accept either of these Koranic calls?
Yes, I realise it is difficult for him. His Faith Foundation is pledged towards love and understanding across and between faiths. He is not in a position, and probably doesn’t want to soundly and roundly cast aspersions on one religion.
But if Tony Blair does not articulate this, who will? Certainly not either of our present so-called leaders, Cameron or Clegg.
So, in recognising that this religion has, counter-intuitively a democratic setup where a child can preach to a man … again I ask: Where is the child?
Omar Bakri Muhammad (Wikipedia)
A MESSAGE FOR BRITAIN OR THE WORLD? OR BOTH?
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the opinion piece is that it seems to focus largely on Britain.
“This approach is to distinguish clearly and carefully between the common space, shared by all citizens, and the space where we can be different.”
However, the section below can be read as having British AND International application.
“But there has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.”
Although a former prime minister, Tony Blair is no longer even an MP. His post-premier international responsibilities, notably as representative of the Quartet in the Middle East peace process, had seemed to me to have imposed on him a purdah as regards opining on Islam. Perhaps even self-imposed.
Criticised here some time ago by a commenter that he/she “preferred me when I was just praising Tony Blair” I have not shied away from criticising him when I have felt that he has been less than frank about Islamist fundamentalist terror. (Let’s stop pussyfooting around with “international” or worse just “terrorism”.)
It is gratifying to notice that he, with a wide circle of friends, colleagues and like-minds in the Islamic world is putting down clearly some of the battle lines that should be drawn. For some time I feared that his worthy battle for Faith & Understanding would continually rebut and limit his instinct to identify the issues for fear of upsetting good Muslim friends and so distancing them. I am relieved to find that is not so, or that it is no longer so.
As he asks in his memoirs ‘A Journey’, referring to the Brown and Obama dropped expression ‘war on terror’ – “if this is not a war, what is it?”
It is probably no coincidence that as David Cameron has just been visiting China, “The Master” (as Blair is described, it seems, by David Cameron and George Osborne) Mr Blair has announced that his Faith Foundation has teamed up with Peking University. This, as well as McGill University in Canada. At his site he lists “Seven ways to advance religious harmony in China and around the world”
Mr Blair also says –
‘Most people instinctively understand the right approach to integration. We just have to articulate and enforce it. This approach is to distinguish clearly and carefully between the common space, shared by all citizens, and the space where we can be different. We have different faiths. We practice them differently. We have different histories, different cultures and different views. Some citizens will genuinely and properly not like some of the more liberal tendencies of Western life. We can differ over this.’
While, of course I agree with most of this, I am not so sure if we can differ over this any more. We have differed for years, decades even and shrugged along nicely until recently. Today we are in a different place.
It’s called Precaliphacy. On the roadmap it comes just after Failed Multiculturalism and just before Disintegration.
Tony Blair’s full Wall Street Journal opinion piece follows:
“Right now, virtually anywhere in Europe, elections can turn on debates over immigration and integration. In Sweden, extreme anti-immigration parties have gained a foothold in parliament for the first time. In Holland, the anti-immigrant and Islamaphobic Party for Freedom is now the third-largest, ahead of the traditional conservative Christian Democrats. In France and Belgium, debate rages over state bans of the veil, and Italy may be next.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said that multiculturalism had failed. In the United Kingdom, immigration was a key issue in the last election. Even in Switzerland, voters last year approved a referendum banning minarets, to the surprise of practically the whole European intellectual and political elite.
This is a big and growing issue, and it cannot be understood simply in terms of cultural questions about immigration.
In Pakistan last year, terrorism killed around 3,300 people—more than in Afghanistan. Such violence scars many other countries, including Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and more. In the conflict in Mindanao, in the Philippines, 150,000 have been killed. This violence is bound up with all sorts of political and regional disputes, but it feeds into the European alarm that immigration, terrorism, religious faith and ethnicity are all dimensions of the same problem.
The danger, certainly in Europe, is very clear. Especially in tough economic times, this issue can inject division, sectarianism and even racism into societies based on equality. Traditional political parties get trapped. Either they pander, but of course they can never pander enough; or they seem in a state of denial and condemn themselves to the position of out-of-touch elites. The backlash grows. The center ground becomes diminished.
We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it. Most Muslims are as much at ease with their citizenship in the U.K. as I am. I dare say that is true in other European nations too.
However, some don’t integrate. But when we talk about this in general terms, without precision, for fear of “stigmatizing” Muslims, we alienate public opinion and isolate the majority of Muslims who are integrating and want to be as much part of our society as any other group. Then, because we won’t identify the problem as it is, a subterranean debate takes the place of an open one, and that debate lumps all Muslims together. So in the interest of “defending” the Muslim community, we actually segregate it by refusing to have an honest debate about what is happening.
Most people instinctively understand the right approach to integration. We just have to articulate and enforce it. This approach is to distinguish clearly and carefully between the common space, shared by all citizens, and the space where we can be different. We have different faiths. We practice them differently. We have different histories, different cultures and different views. Some citizens will genuinely and properly not like some of the more liberal tendencies of Western life. We can differ over this.
But there has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.
Concerns about illegal immigration have a lot to do with the notion that the system can be gamed, played, or swindled by some who are hostile to the host community they seek to penetrate. Ensuring that there are rules, strictly enforced—and in Europe’s case, these could be pan-European as well as national—is not anti-immigrant. It is, in fact, the only way to protect the idea that immigration, properly controlled, is of enormous benefit.
We will not defeat extremism (and the fear it then produces in our societies) until we defeat its narrative. This narrative is Islam as a victim of the West, locked in an inevitable cultural conflict with it.
This narrative links justifiable sentiments (whether you agree with them or not)—anxiety about injustice to Palestinians, dissent over military action in Afghanistan or Iraq, anger about Kashmir or Chechnya, opposition to regimes supported by the West—with an unjustifiable narrative that defines Islam in a way that is contrary to its true teaching. Those who accept the narrative use their religious faith as a badge of identity in opposition to others. Integration is seen as oppression. Then the backlash is final confirmation that we are indeed in conflict.
This narrative is global. Its ideology is global. It has to be confronted as such. But we are nowhere near doing that. It is funding websites, training its adherents, spreading its message. It is conducting a campaign, occasionally by violence, often by propaganda.
The first step in fighting back is to recognize the nature of the struggle. That is why what is happening in Europe today is not some random eruption of anti-immigrant sentiment that will subside as fast as it has arisen. We have seen many of those before. This is different: deeper, more dangerous than any in recent years, and ultimately connected to what is building in the rest of the world. It is time to wake up.”
Mr. Blair was prime minister of Great Britain from 1997 to 2007.
Article also at Tony Blair’s Office
OTHERS’ THOUGHTS ON THIS OPINION PIECE
1. Conservative In The Closet says ‘Tony Blair grows pair’. Perhaps he can show his followers, such as Cameron, Osborn and Hague how to do the same.
2. Shiraz Maher at Standpoint Mag says: “Tony Blair has written a fantastic piece for the Wall Street Journal about ‘making Muslim integration work’. As ever, it is spot on. His piece reminds us of the clarity and sense of purpose which pervaded his administration, and which is so desperately lacking today.”
And by the way, it is RIGHT to say you miss him. Wish more of us would own up to that.
3. Caroline Glick, referring to Blair’s piece, says that the USA too needs to address “the enemies within”
4. A. Jay Adler, at Sad Red Earth, has this on ‘Tony Blair on Muslim integration’
“Many British seem determined to make of Tony Blair what the Russians have of Mikhail Gorbachev – a greatly significant leader better appreciated outside his country than within it. Below, published on his official website, Blair demonstrates the frank and clear-sighted vision missing from so many who are blinded either by baseness or dull orthodoxy.”
5. At the CTV News report are some Q&A points. Interesting. For instance, on Lauren Booth and on polygamy in Britain. His answer to the latter is interesting, but begs the question – why are there so many immigrant polygamists in Britain, often claiming social benefits for multiple families? THEY need to be banned from multiple marriage and those already multiple-wed DEPORTED, British citizens or not. Allowing them and their wives into Britain in the first place WAS a BIG error.
‘Ironically, Blair’s visit to Montreal comes shortly after his sister-in-law announced her conversion to Islam, calling on him in the British press to change his presumptions about the Muslim faith. Lauren Booth, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq and former reality show contestant, accused Blair of believing Muslims are bad.
Blair and an adviser smiled ruefully Friday when Booth’s name was raised and, after pointing out she was his wife’s half-sister, the former prime minister said he would stick to his stock reply when it came to her.
“My reaction is always the same to what she says, which is she’s entitled to her views.”
And – “My point is very simple — if you want to be a leader today, in politics, in business, in civic society, you cannot be religiously illiterate,” Blair said. “You’ve got to know about it. You may not agree with it, you may not even like it but you’ve got to know about it.”
And – ‘Blair […] said he felt that when he was in office he could have used advice and assistance from the academic world in framing the intellectual debate around religious and cultural issues. “This is complicated and profound stuff about the nature of our society,” he said, noting similar debates are going on all over the world.’
And – ‘The former Labour leader only seemed flummoxed on one question during the event, when he was asked by a Montreal reporter whether polygamy would ever be legalized in Britain.
He said he didn’t think it would ever happen in his country, adding, “My wife wouldn’t be very happy about that.”
Meanwhile, and of course purely coincidental to Blair’s visit, the Canadian PM Stephen Harper has moved to delay withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan until 2014, despite earlier election promises. Another politician seeing the light and understanding the responsibilities of office.
By the way, while putting this together I read his 2006 speech again and thought I should include a little. It is part of Tony Blair’s last speech to his party conference as leader and PM, September 2006:
“And of course, the new anxiety is the global struggle against terrorism without mercy or limit.
This is a struggle that will last a generation and more. But this I believe passionately: we will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy, that somehow we are the ones responsible.
This terrorism isn’t our fault. We didn’t cause it.
It’s not the consequence of foreign policy.
It’s an attack on our way of life.
It has an ideology.
It killed nearly 3,000 people including over 60 British on the streets of New York before war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of.
It has been decades growing.
Its victims are in Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Turkey.
Over 30 nations in the world.
It preys on every conflict.
It exploits every grievance.
And its victims are mainly Muslim.
This is not our war against Islam.
This is a war fought by extremists who pervert the true faith of Islam. And all of us, Western and Arab, Christian or Muslim, who put the value of tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence above those of sectarian hatred, should join together to defeat them.”
Back to where you were, before being led astray, as it were
So, not exactly a new discovery. But when will we in the west, especially Britain, understand that Tony Blair was and still is right? Perhaps when I manage to trace down a YouTube video of Anjem Choudary, Omar Bakri’s right-hand man here in Britain. In that video, which sadly I failed to save when I first saw it, there is an excerpt from the 1980s. Even then Choudary talks of Jihad and Caliphate. Once seen even unbelievers may just be persuaded that Islamist extremism/terrorism isn’t Bush’s and Blair’s doing. (See Arrest Anjem Choudary)
Readers may not enjoy or even agree with many of the links above. But we should thank Mr Blair for finally raising this as an issue. Clearly there is some way to go. A commenter here today at another post provides food for thought.
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“All countries need a leader who isn’t afraid to fight terrorism. I believe Mr. Blair did a necessary job in helping his allies. Are we all just supposed to lie down and wait for them to come for us, I don’t think so.”
And – “Mr. Blair is one of the finest politicians to have had the privilege of serving the United Kingdom, and Britons are fortunate to have had him as their Prime Minister. Time will show that Mr. Blair’s approach to affairs in the Middle East were and remain correct. From a member of the Commonwealth, thank you, Mr. Blair, for your continued service to legitimate and lasting (and not convenient or politically expedient) freedom.”
AND – “Tony Blair was the greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill and the only regret I have he didn’t get my vote as I live in Canada.”
AND – “I am sick and tired of television and radio interviewers asking the same old questions over and over, regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, presumably they hope Mr Blair will let slip some secret information which they would then use against him. History will show if the decision was the right one, (I believe it was) but people must accept that Tony Blair is an honourable man, and made his decision based on the known facts and not with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.”