SHAFAQNA – Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from May 1997 to June 2007, Tony Blair was also the leader of Britain’s Labour Party (1994 to 2007) and the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield, England (1983 to 2007).
Somewhat a controversial figure as he promoted and helped the United States go to war in Iraq on claims that then-President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the veteran politician has since remained an active public figure through his foundation – The Tony Blair Foundation.
Speaking on why he decided to establish a foundation and move from the world of politics to a form of political activism, the former PM explained that he wanted to use his public platform and access to “promote respect and understanding of and between the major religions and to make the case for faith as a force for good in the modern world.”
Amid the rise of extremism in the Middle East and increased warning that radicals could seek to export their ideology of hate to Europe, Shafaqna sat down with the former Prime Minister to discuss world developments within the framework of religious fanaticism.
SHAFAQNA – We have seen reports in the media alleging that more young British have gone on to fight alongside ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Why is that? Why would young Britons even consider joining the black flag army, especially in the light of the atrocities they have committed – beheadings, raiding and so on …?
Tony Blair – Britons who adhere to this ideology have been subjected to a perversion of Islam that must be stamped out not only in Britain, but in the Middle East and Africa. The broad mass of the Muslim community in the UK have been absolutely horrified and appalled by ISIS and condemn it completely. The way these hostages are abused and subject to the grotesque form of public parade and then execution, it’s just horrific. It’s evil and it’s totally contrary to the principles of any form of religious faith.
It’s an ideology based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam, but it is powerful. It is proselytized and preached by people in mosques and madrasas not just in countries like Pakistan and parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa, but back in parts of Britain.
How do you root this kind of teaching out and make it absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable to teach these forms of extremism? The recent broadcast of executions demonstrates how completely divorced from any type of proper human compassion these people are, and why it’s also necessary to take them on and beat them.”
SHAFAQNA – What is your answer to radicalism? What do you suggest we do to oppose it?
Tony Blair – Terrorist attacks span East and West: Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Thailand, Australia,Nigeria and Yemen, and thus require a global response rather than a response only from the West or the West and a few Arab states.
Even countries like Russia, China and India can find common ground with the United States on dealing with the threat. Cooperating with Russia to battle extremism should not impinge on how we view Russian attitude toward Ukraine for example.”
At some point someone’s boots on the ground would be a necessary tactic.I’m not saying we in the West need to do this; it would be better if it were done by those people closer to the ground who have got the most immediate and direct interests in fighting them. But I don’t think we can in all circumstances rule it out and after all we do have the force capability to do this.”