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Blair’s speech on Islamic extremism generates strong reactions International commentary focuses on former prime minister’s credibility on the subject as much as the subject itself

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Julian Borger and Ian Black
theguardian.com, Wednesday 23 April 2014 14.53 BST

Tony Blair’s speech seeking to rally global support for a confrontation with Islamic extremism generated a storm of reaction, most of it negative and much of it focusing on the messenger rather than the message.

Tony Blair's speech has been compared to Winston Churchill’s famous 1946 warning about the descent of the iron curtain. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Tony Blair’s speech has been compared to Winston Churchill’s famous 1946 warning about the descent of the iron curtain. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images


The director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, Chris Doyle, said the former prime minister had been right to underline the importance of the subject in his Bloomberg speech but was sharply critical of the way he went about tackling it.

Doyle said: “Blair is largely right to highlight the issue. Islamic extremism is not on the wane. It is flourishing in many areas of the world. Nobody should be complacent.

“It is his solutions that are very problematic – particularly the idea that people in the Middle East have to choose between dictatorship and Islamic extremism, and in criticising the Muslim Brotherhood, he has endorsed the military leadership in Egypt. But the choice the people of the region need is not between dictatorship and extremism but between those systems and pluralist democratic rule. In fact, dictatorships have often been a significant cause of frustration and anger, and a driving force behind the rise of al-Qaida.”

Blair found support for his position from a former foreign office minister, Denis MacShane, who said he had warned about the threat of Islamism in 2003 and was nearly sacked for his stand. He compared Wednesday’s speech to Winston Churchill’s famous 1946 warning about the descent of the iron curtain. MacShane tweeted: “Just read Blair speech. Ignore headlines. This is Fulton Mark 2. Bien pensant left then refused to challenge Stalinism. Orwell knew better.”

Others complained that the speech conflated different strands in political Islam. The Palestinian editor of the Rai al-Youm news website, Abdel Bari Atwan, said: “Blair is implying that extremist Islam is a danger for the whole world. But the target is the Muslim Brotherhood. He is a very good friend of Mr Sisi in Egypt and he does a lot of consultancy work in the region so it’s not surprising that he’s speaking out. He had spent years as peace envoy but what kind of peace has he achieved? We have to differentiate between radical Islam and moderate Islam. If you criminalise Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood then you are pushing them into extremism.”

Much of the commentary focused on Blair’s own credibility on the subject as much as the subject itself, particularly his role in leading Britain into the war in Iraq alongside President George Bush.

Doyle said: “Before 2003, there wasn’t an issue of al-Qaida in Iraq. There is now. Intervention is highly risky and almost always leads to situations where extremists flourish. They profit from instability, civil war and the inability of states to manage their territories.”

A columnist for the Saudi-owned al-Hayat daily, Jihad al-Khazen, said: “Blair and George W Bush are as responsible for radical Islam as any of its leaders. The war in Iraq caused the death of almost a million Muslims. It gave a reason for every radical in the Middle East to go to war against the west.

“I don’t think Blair will absolve himself of responsibility by making this speech. He talks about how the Middle East matters but he says nothing about Israel’s continuing occupation. He is definitely not the right person to be lecturing on this subject – or to be a peace envoy. That’s an oxymoron.”

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and expert on Jerusalem, where Blair spends some of his year as envoy for the Quartet (the UN, EU, US and Russia), also noted the absence of any mention of the occupation of Palestinian territories, settlements and the prospect of a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, a columnist on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer, tweeted: “The fascinating thing about Blair’s speech today is that it could have been a Netanyahu speech, word-for-word, they share the same outlook.”

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/23/blair-speech-islamic-extremism-strong-reactions

Posted by on April 23, 2014. Filed under Europe,UK. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to Blair’s speech on Islamic extremism generates strong reactions International commentary focuses on former prime minister’s credibility on the subject as much as the subject itself

  1. Khalid bin Qasim

    April 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Tony Blair is not a stable administrator, as if he doesnt know what is happening in palestine, he is also responsible for innocent civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  2. Iftikhar Ahmad

    April 24, 2014 at 5:02 am

    If British authorities are so concerned about their education institutions being infiltrated by “extremists” then I suggest they stop Tony Blair, architect in chief of the illegal and violent 2003 Iraq invasion from speaking at colleges and universities across the UK and the world. His lies and fabrications caused the deaths, directly and indirectly, of thousands of Iraqis, British and Americans. While the survivors of his wars suffer in silence, this former British Prime Minister makes millions through his speaking engagements at educational institutions across the world with little or no sign of remorse for the suffering he caused. Nothing I see that suggests the British Muslim educators in question did anything illegal, let alone anywhere as remotely destructive as the twice elected British Prime Minister. Britain’s interests would be served better if they questioned their own domestic and overseas policies instead of perennially whining on about “extremist” from their (mostly) law abiding immigrant communities. Blair’s spitefully unapologetic role in the debacle of Iraq’s invasion & occupation, his hypocritical backing of the Egyptian military overthrow of a legitimately elected government fuelled the rise of that “Islamic extremism” he now prattles on about. Taking the massively-discredited advice of someone whose actions brought about the very problems they now decry is the height of foolishness.

    Tony Blair’s speech seeking to rally global support for a confrontation with Islamic extremism generated a storm of reaction, most of it negative and much of it focusing on the messenger rather than the message.

    It’s not just Muslim extremism that’s the problem, but Christian and Jewish extremism too. Also neo-Nazi extremism that the USA and EU are making use of in Ukraine. It’s unbelievable that a man who was instrumental in the War of Aggression against Iraq was appointed as UN Middle East Peace Envoy! In his “peace envoy” role he’s been banging the war drum for British/US/NATO bombing of Syria. Who does this man actually serve? The Americans, the British, Israel, or the UN? …all of the above? ….or just himself? If Blair’s crimes were committed by Putin or Assad, the ‘international community’ would be: a.) Counting the dead (e.g. Syria) b.) Comparing him to Hitler and demanding he be marched to the Hague to face charges of high war crimes! But when Blair and Bush do it, not a peep from anyone (apart from us angry citizens, George Galloway and a handful of independent journalist – e.g. John Pilger) Clearly the Western Elite have a different rule book to the rest of us. Shame on our media for not doing their job and reporting on the hypocrisy and double-standards.

    International commentary should just ignore the lunatic. The more he talks the more insane he appears and therefore the less credible he becomes. The rest of us should just ignore him and put his comments in the “thanks but no thanks” suggestions pile. What is Blair’s mission? Is it religious? Is it ideological? I mean, most people just shut the fuck up after the type of carnage his career unleashed, but he’s just relentless. Thank God he doesn’t;t have any power anymore. A very dangerous personality type. He genuinely is a case study for a psychopath. “One of the most common personality characteristics of the sociopath is their grandiose sense of self and entitlement. Sociopaths also often display a lack of remorse and most have a very manipulative personality covered by superficial charm. Sociopaths often use people as a means to getting what they want.” It’s a given Blair’s a war criminal now he’s on a religious crusade. His moral compass is fucked! Most politicians are psychopaths…read Dr Hares 10 point test. It’s from Dr Hare..psychopathy test. It is believed that one person in 100 is a sociopath..I would imagine that it would probably be 90% of politicians are sociopaths/psychopaths…the title is interchangeable.

    Meanwhile, a columnist on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer, tweeted: “The fascinating thing about Blair’s speech today is that it could have been a Netanyahu speech, word-for-word, they share the same outlook. There’s my answer…. “Blair and George W Bush are as responsible for radical Islam as any of its leaders. The war in Iraq caused the death of almost a million Muslims. It gave a reason for every radical in the Middle East to go to war against the west. Let’s be honest – it’s called genocide and mass murder. Events in Yugoslavia are the same. Countries and leaders who organized it must be punished by the real World Community. Blair is so utterly delusional and frankly thick that he is completely unaware that he [and Bush, Putin, Netanyahu and so on] are the mirror image of what he is railing against. He is an ignorant religious extremist, ultra nationalist and corporate whore seeking an endless war against slightly different religious extremists, ultra nationalists but dispossessed people. Just so that he can make money and feel important.

    A columnist for the Saudi-owned al-Hayat daily, Jihad al-Khazen, said: “Blair and George W Bush are as responsible for radical Islam as any of its leaders. The war in Iraq caused the death of almost a million Muslims. It gave a reason for every radical in the Middle East to go to war against the west. In a nutshell. Before the Iraq invasion, Al Qaida were a bunch of cave dwellers who had just won the terrorist equivalent of the Euro Millions with their 9/11 attack. They were no more powerful than Bader-Meinhoff and fading. Now they control great swathes of geo-politically important real estate from North Africa to the Euphrates river. And Blair, with his stupid war-mongering is directly responsible for that. I don’t know why this pathological, narcissistic moron still has a public platform.
    IA