“The conspiracy theories which illuminate much of the jihadi writings have significant support even amongst parts of the mainstream population of some Muslim countries...
There are millions of schoolchildren every day in countries round the world – not just in the Middle East – who are taught a view of the world and of their religion which is narrow-minded, prejudicial and therefore, in the context of a globalised world, dangerous.
“If large numbers of people really do believe that the desire of the USA or the west is to disrespect or oppress Islam then it is not surprising that some find recourse to violence acceptable in order to reassert the ‘dignity’ of the oppressed..
If young people are educated that Jews are evil or that anyone who holds a different view of religion is an enemy, it is obvious that this prejudice will give rise, in certain circumstances, to action in accordance with it.
The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”-Tony Blair in a 9/11 Memorial Speech, New York, October 6 2015
Blair comments that there is prejudice and bigotry in certain parts of the Muslim community and 'even' in 'the mainstream population of some Muslim countries. In reaction he is either just lambasted for the invasion of Iraq or he's seen as 'right on this'. Few seem able to interpret Blairspeak.
Every utterance Blair emits is calculated to position himself politically in relation to his audience. This speech is one designed to revive Blair as a figure prepared to tell unwelcome truths about the way 'extremist' Islam is vaguely connected to the 'mainstream population'.
There is no such thing as a 'mainstream population' unless 'mainstream opinions' are quantifiably connected to 'mainstream people' who exist in relation to 'mainstream leaders', such as Blair, who has mainstream ideas that are wholly normal and so consequently never 'extreme'.
That comes in handy also when trying to explain why the invasion of Iraq in 2003 failed: it was because those who came to liberate Iraq in good faith, led by Tony Blair, were doomed to be opposed by those who had bought into a 'discourse' in which the West wanted to 'oppress Islam'.
Clearly, that reaction was 'extreme' and not normal but 'mainstream' enough once 'extremists' had poisoned enough minds. Evil presumably floats free once bad ideas have been able to germinate in so many minds once the evil genie is let out of the bottle to spread and nestle itself in mainstream minds.
Nothing he has said about conspiracy theories about the West trying to destroy Islam or the fact there is a 'discourse' that bolsters violent jihadi Islamism is particular new. The fact remains though that for such ideas to spread as virulently as they have, it is global power politics that is largely to blame.
The two most obvious examples of that are both the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria after 2011 by backing Sunni jihadists, many of whom have moved back and forth across the region into neighbouring Iraq and other lands such as Libya, Yemen and Sinai in Egypt.
A Note on Moderates and Extremists
As the Syrian conflict has shown, in practice 'extremist' means an Islamist opposed to the Western Powers while a 'moderate' is one that works in its interests and is funded by their allies Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It is unclear how far from being 'moderate' an 'extremist' has to be before he becomes 'extreme'.
The term 'extremist' is conveniently vague whereas violent jihadi-Islamist or militant Wahhabi Islamist is concrete enough to understand. But that, of course, would mean that Blair's friends in the Saudi establishment would be classified as such and so 'extremist' is preferred.
'Extremists' threaten the stability of vested interests and power while 'moderates' are those who can be worked with, even if both may have similar ideas and ideologies. Jihadi groups in Syria working with Western allies are, if not 'moderate', then 'less extreme' than the really real 'extremists' such as ISIS.
It is about time journalists devoted to truth started examining this sort of rhetoric forensically instead of simply recycling it as if it had self evident meaning. Otherwise we enter the world of Humpty Dumpty-'When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
Blair makes a bid to revive his former status as a cutting edge politician.
Blair is trying to sell his pitch on Islamism as a way of ingratiating himself with those concerned with the spread of fanatical ideas in the UK and US. But Blair is a politician whose grasp of 'reality' has been very shaky and mostly related to his ability to intuit the British public mood back in the late 1990s.
It's clear Blair has always attempted to use rhetoric tricks and 'triangulation' strategies, better used in domestic policies within Britain, to apply to the 'big' global 'picture' where these efforts to 'frame' the debate, and position the leader as opposed to two extremes to either side, are even more stupid.
The idea dictatorship and terrorist chaos were two interconnected extremes, that appeared opposites but were united through their 'extremism', is one reason why Blair saw them as necessary partners in crime in the Middle East so that in removing the dictator there would be less terror and more freedom.
As far as the politics and religion of the Greater Middle East is concerned, Blair's idea of 'reality' was conditioned by a geopolitical wish fantasy in which secular democracy could extend seamlessly into the region in the aftermath of the Cold War no less than it had in Central Europe, though force would be needed.
To be fair to Blair, this delusion has been inherited by Cameron and others in Britain and France who maintain that the Western Powers could 'deliver' democracy through military action, whether in Libya in 2011 or in Syria by supporting some mythical "moderate" rebel force that has not existed at least since 2012.
ISIS exists not because of a lack of education: its propagandists and its leaders are techno savvy with social media. ISIS operatives have a very clever knowledge of using it as part of their tactics and strategy of drawing in the Western Powers by making its leaders react to its atrocities as they would want.
The reality is that jihadism has spread and ISIS has grown because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which Blair enthusiastically promoted, though it would have gone ahead anyway as the US was intent on an invasion with or without Blair. Removing Saddam through military action was bound to release sectarian enmities.
Militant jihadi-Islamism is part of a 'discourse'. Yet it is also one that has practically spread due to the fact Arab nations have been kept beneath secular dictatorships and repressive religious based despotisms such as Saudi Arabia or else autocratic governments such as those in Qatar or Bahrain.
Trying to remove the secular dictatorships of Syria and Iraq while enlisting the help of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states has only led to a proxy war between Sunnis and Shi'ites: it had no realistic chance of working where the aim of "regime change" by force of arms was promoted and no functioning state survived.
Conspiracy theories are rife in the Middle East and among uneducated Muslims in the West, where there is far less excuse for pig headed ignorance for sure. But the practical advance of jihadism as a global force is one spurred on by dysfunctional regimes such as Saudi Arabia that depend on diverting internal discontent outwards.
But conspiracy theories are hardly only unique to Muslims, though they simplify terrifying and seemingly incomprehensible events for simple minds or offer a way for politicians to blame the evil plots of other groups and sets of politicians, especially Israel and the Jews, for general misfortune and chaos.
Conspiracy theories are very popular in the USA; in fact they have become an important part of sections of the media as testified by the success and popularity of theories about 9/11 being an inside job, ISIS as an express tool of the US and 'Zionist lobby' etc as spread by numerous shock jocks and pundits.
The reality is that Britain's close regional ally in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia-uses its petrodollars to spread Wahhabi Islam across the region and the wider world. Blair, no less than Cameron, has proved willing to genuflect before the Saudis because of greedy commercial interests and arms deals.
The spread and popularity of jihadism against the regional and global powers, the "near" and "far" enemies is primarily about geopolitical clashes and the chaos they have wrought, allowing the space for brutal fanatics to emerge and dominate lands in which the state has collapsed.