Tony Blair has reignited debate about the west’s response to terrorism with a call on governments to recognise that religious extremism has become the biggest source of conflict around the world.
Referring to wars and violent confrontations from Syria to Nigeria and the Philippines, Blair, writing in the Observer, argues that “there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.”
Identifying religious extremism as an ever more dangerous phenomenon, the spread of which is easier in an online age, he says: “The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology, like those of the 20th century – but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.”
Here is the editorial:
Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles
The last weeks have seen a ghastly roll call of terror attacks in the obvious places: Syria, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Pakistan. Also suffering are places where we have only in recent years seen such violence: Nigeria, and in many parts of central Africa, in Russia and across central Asia, and in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. We can either see all of these acts of killing as separate – produced by various political contexts – or we can start to see the clear common theme and start to produce a genuine global strategy to deal with it.
The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion. There is no doubt either that this phenomenon is growing, not abating.
We have to be prepared to take the security measures necessary for our immediate protection. Since 9/11, the cost of those measures, and their burden, has been huge. However, security action alone, even military action, will not deal with the root cause. This extremism comes from a source. It is not innate. It is taught. It is taught sometimes in the formal education system; sometimes in the informal religious schools; sometimes in places of worship and it is promoted by a vast network of internet communications.