Islamism, both the ideology and the violence, is a first-order security threat and if unchecked will come to us even if centred far from us, as 9/11 demonstrated, said former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The former PM was speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001.
“Radical Islam believes not only in Islamism – the turning of the religion into a political doctrine – but in the justification of struggle if necessary armed struggle to achieve it, Blair said. “Other Islamists agree with the ends but eschew violence. But the ideology is in inevitable conflict with open, modern, culturally tolerant societies,” he added.
“This ideology – whether Shia, promulgated by the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Sunni, promoted by groups on a spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood through to al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and many others – has been the principal cause of destabilisation across the Middle East and beyond, and today in Africa”, he explained.
“Like Revolutionary Communism, it operates in many different arenas and dimensions; and like it, its defeat will come ultimately through confronting both the violence and the ideology with a combination of hard and soft power”, he said.
With reference to US President Joe Biden’s recent statement following the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Blair added that the West needs to work out what it means by not remaking countries from which terrorist threats can arise. Blair had criticised the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, declaring it “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” and driven by politics rather than strategy.
Expressing concern about the threats to Europe, he said that Europe faces the immediate challenge from the destabilisation of the Sahel. Europe is already facing the fallout from Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. And for these purposes Britain is part of Europe, like it or not, he said.