By Arab News
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that a new wave of religious intolerance is originating in the West, where groups like the Muslim Brotherhood operate freely, proving a threat back in the Arab world.
The former Labour Party leader, who led the country for a decade from 1997, made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat and Majalla magazine, sister publications of Arab News.
“The reason why I was opposed, for example, to Western policy at the time over Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, was because it was so obvious to me that if we ended up supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, we’d end up supporting a regime that was going to be profoundly intolerant, and quite apart from taking Egypt backwards, would end up as a significant security threat to us, never mind to Egypt or the region.”
The former politician, who now runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said that it was important for the Western governments to see Islamist ideology as “regressive” and as a totalitarian way of looking at the world.
“It’s the same if you do it to any religion – the Christian religion, Jewish religion, Hindu religion and indeed there are people who do it within each of those religions. You end up politicizing religion in that way, you end up doing damage to the future. And you end up excluding people.”
“The 20th century had these political ideologies, and the 21st century has these religious ideologies – whether religious or political they’re both totalitarian in nature. Therefore they are essentially regressive and reactionary.”
He said there was also a sense that part of the intolerance emerging in the world emanates from some quarters of the West rather than the Arab World.
“What we have done — and the UK is a good example of this, as I know from battles I had as prime minister — is that our societies are very tolerant, and very open, but unfortunately sometimes what’s happened is we’ve allowed these groups to come in and abuse that hospitality.
“And so you actually have pockets of extremism in the West now which can play themselves back into the region. The answer is the same: be intolerant of intolerance. We will have to take steps in the West to confront this in time.”
He said that while it was important to act against people using violence, it was also important to confront the ideology of extremism.
“There is still in the US, Britain, and Europe a reluctance to do this,” Blair said.