January 7, 2016


Defeating Islamist Extremists in 2016 (Tony Blair, 1/04/16, Project Syndicate)

The Centre on Religion and Geo-Politics at my foundation tracks this extremism every day, and its research makes for fascinating, if alarming, reading. It shows clearly that uprooting this ideology will require digging deep.

To this end, I have advocated an internationally agreed "Global Commitment on Education": each and every country has a responsibility to promote cultural and religious tolerance and to eradicate cultural and religious prejudice within its education system.

We must also support those who confront extremist doctrine. Many brave and serious theologians - like those from Cairo's al-Azhar mosque or Mauritania's Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah - are showing how the true teaching of Islam leads to reconciliation with the modern world.

This alliance with Muslim leaders who are prepared to lead the fight against the perversion of their faith is crucial. We sometimes regard the Middle East as a mess to avoid. But - as if we needed another reminder - the November 13 carnage in Paris showed the futility of a hands-off approach.

Instead, we should think of the Middle East and Islam as being in a process of transition: the Middle East toward rule-based and religiously tolerant societies, and Islam toward its rightful place as a faith of progress and humanity. Seen in this way, this is not a mess to avoid, but a life-and-death struggle in which our own fundamental interests are at stake.

Accordingly, we should promote those working for an open-minded future for the Middle East and Islam. The Gulf States, Egypt, and Jordan are our allies: where they face the challenges of modernization, we should stand ready to help.

Finally, we must recognize in the coming year the crucial importance of resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is not only important in its own right; it would also contribute to good international and interfaith relations - and powerfully reassert the principle of peaceful coexistence on which the international order rests.

One of the most interesting take-aways from reading about ISIS is not just how out of step their ideology is with other Muslims, but the extent to which it depends on the immediate success of establishing the caliphate and the imminence of the Mahdi.  They were warned against this by other Islamicists groups for precisely the reason it is useful to us--as we defeat them on the one hand and the Mahdi doesn't show up, on the other, they are delegitimized. Combined with their disastrous policies of committing violence against fellow Muslims, the battle for hearts and minds can be won easily.

Posted by at January 7, 2016 6:12 PM