Tony Blair: Extremism Is A Global Struggle. We Must Take It On And Defeat It Wherever It Occurs.

Centre on Religion & Geopolitics

Tony Blair: Extremism Is A Global Struggle. We Must Take It On And Defeat It Wherever It Occurs.

24 May 2016

Extremism is not just about the Middle East; it's a global struggle. Defeating it therefore requires new policies and sustained international effort. The only way that the world can work is through pluralism and an open-minded attitude towards others, and we must take harmful ideologies and defeat them whenever and wherever they occur.

On 24 May, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics (CRG) co-hosted with Prospect Magazine an "in conversation" event with Tony Blair.

Since leaving office, Mr Blair has spent most of his time on work in the Middle East, Africa, and on the fight against religious extremism. He established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, of which CRG is an initiative, in response to his belief that religious ideology, and its impact on the world, would be the biggest challenge to face us in the 21st Century.

CRG's main aim is to help inform policy makers about the ideology behind religious extremist violence. It presents informed analysis on the interaction of religion, geopolitics, and conflict globally; and offers policy responses to meet the scale of the challenge.

During the discussion, Mr Blair emphasised how those who seek isolation through an extremist world view provide anger without answers. He said that we all have an interest in the outcome of conflicts, and don't have a choice but to engage. This means taking a step back and asking ourselves what the root causes are. As Mr Blair noted, violent extremist groups, such as ISIS, are prepared to die for their cause without regret, and the fight against them will therefore be tough.

Tony Blair commented that regions of instability do not face a stark choice between the current status-quo and extremism, and we have to play our part in highlighting a third choice. Working with our allies across the Muslim world, we can support them to create stability and peace. He added that it is not possible to defeat violent extremism without making a commitment to do whatever it takes. Defeating it is fundamental, because if we don't, violent extremism knows no physical boundaries, and these people will attack us here. This is not someone else's fight; it is our fight as well.

The only viable route forward is the development of rule-based economies, and religiously tolerant societies. This is a long term struggle, and if we are to defeat them wherever they are, we must have an open debate about the ideas which underpin the violence of religious extremists. An open minded attitude towards the other is crucial, "So we can debate how to take them on, but we must take them on."