Tony Blair has decided to lecture us on the subject of Islamic extremism. I have said this before, perhaps, but can there be too many people who are less qualified to preach on the subject? He plunged us into a conflict that not only left hundreds of thousands dead and crippled but swelled the ranks and ambitions of jihadists. He kept us locked in a partnership with the depraved theocrats of Saudi Arabia. He maintained migration policies that helped dangerous ideologues to set up home in Britain. He is like a man who knocks a hole through a sea wall and then begins to wax lyrical on the dangers of flooding, and without, mind you, the merest hint of shame or regret.
I have often wondered whether Mr. Blair is a flagrant liar or tragically deluded. Whichever the case might be, it allows him to produce stunning elisions. He reels off examples of Islamic authoritarians and militarists worldwide, going so far as to mention “the Mindanao dispute in the Muslim region of the Philippines”, but avoids referencing Saudi Arabia: a “critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups” and the base from which Wahhabism is spread through the means of clerics, textbooks and religious institutions. It was pathetic enough when Blair was mumbling to Paxman that forced amputations were “their culture, their way of life”; now it is clear that he is either struggling to obscure the truth or pathologically indifferent to it.
Blair sees fit to reassure us that jihadist and theocratic perspectives have nothing to do with Islam. “For those of us who have studied it,” he grandly states, “There is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature”. While I have not “studied” Islam, I think it would be presumptuous and condescending to claim that eminent jurists from Alboacen to Al-Qaradawi just plain misunderstood their faith, never mind their innumerable followers. To assert that offensive jihadism, let alone the marriage of religion and the state, has nought to do with “natural” Islam is to demean the intelligence of vast numbers of its scholars and adherents; as well, of course, as our own.
Blair’s argument is that there is a struggle within Islam: one between “Islamists” and “the modern-minded”. There are conflicting trends within Islam, that is true, but to reduce it to a clear distinction between theocrats and secularists is too erect an ideological fantasy. Blair claims that the latter are “potentially the majority”. Well, they are potentially, inasmuch as they could become one in the future, but if he thinks this is liable to happen soon he is looking at a different set of opinion polls from mine. Which “side”, to use his silly term, was secular and liberal in Egypt, or Libya, or Iraq?
Speaking of Iraq, Blair makes a predictable attempt to justify his invasions. These “long and hard conflicts…have made us wary”, he writes, but “disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace”. I am not a total absolutist on the principle disengagement but it seems to me that the West’s part in these struggles, from the U.S. financing of the mujahideen to the “coalition of the willing”’s debilitation of an already bruised Iraq, has tended to exacerbate violence. The abandonment of Blair’s brand of internationalism would not assure our security but it would represent a decent start. The exile of the man himself, meanwhile, would be a step towards the renewal of our culture.