West outmanoeuvred by Islamists - Blair

2010-10-06 19:51

London/New York - Western countries are being outmanoeuvred by violent Islamic extremism because they have failed to challenge the "narrative" on which it is based, former British prime minister Tony Blair has warned.

"We should wake up to the absurdity of our surprise at the prevalence of this extremism," Blair said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in New York late on Tuesday.

"Look at the funds it receives. Examine the education systems that succour it. And then measure, over the years, the paucity of our counter-attack in the name of peaceful co-existence.

"We have been outspent, outmanoeuvred and out-strategised," said Blair, according to Britain's Press Association on Wednesday.

Blair, who is a special envoy for the Middle East Quartet, and who also runs a Faith Foundation for inter-religious dialogue, said the West had failed to challenge the "narrative" that Islam was oppressed by the West which was fuelling extremism around the world.

Too many people accepted the extremists' analysis that the military actions taken by the West following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US nine years ago were directed at countries because they were Muslim and that it supported Israel because Israelis were Jews while Palestinians were Muslims, said Blair.

Moderate Muslims undermined

It was impossible to defeat extremism "without defeating the narrative that nurtures it," he warned.

Moderate Muslims who believed in co-existence and tolerance were, he said, being undermined by the "unwillingness" of the West to take on the extremists' arguments.

"We think if we sympathise with the narrative - that essentially this extremism has arisen as a result, partly, of our actions - we meet it halfway, we help the modernisers to be more persuasive," said Blair.

"We don't. We indulge it and we weaken them. Worse, a reaction springs up amongst our people that we are pandering to this narrative and they start to resent Muslims as a whole," warned Blair.

- SAPA
Read more on:    tony blair  |  uk  |  security  |  middle east peace
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