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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Tony Blair: "Woolwich shows there is a problem within Islam"

 

Never one to stay out of the limelight for too long, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has waded into the argument about Islamic extremism by claiming that the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich is evidence that there is a "problem within Islam".

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Blair described as "profound and dangerous" the ideology behind the horrific killing perpetrated by Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo in southeast London on 22 May.

Mr Blair wrote: "There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam.

"We have to put it on the table and be honest about it.  Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. 

But 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."

He added: "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."

Mr Blair, head of an interfaith charity that aims to "counter extremism in all major religions", also compared the battle against extremism to the Western struggle against communism.

"We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom.

"We can do the same with this. The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

"We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad.  Now more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic", he said.

Mr Blair's comments have, unsurprisingly, elicited a strong reaction from individuals on both sides of the argument. 

Tommy Robinson, leader of the nationalist English Defence League, commended Mr Blair for his "honesty" and invited other politicians to open up about the threat posed by home-grown extremism.

Many others however, pointed out to the invasion of Iraq as the reason that many young British Muslims have become radicalized.

- Viji Alles

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