Friday, May 11, 2007

Tony Blair & Islam: Is He A Cynic Or A Fool?

Tony Blair's legacy as Prime Minister is positive, I think, though much awaits the passage of time and the judgment of history. From this side of the pond, looking solely at his relationship with the United States, I could not have more respect for the man. But all of that is for another post. This post concerns Blair's plans for after he leaves the post of Prime Minister. And either Blair is about to execute an incredibly cynical plan to cash in on the Saudi petrodollars or he is a truly dangerous fool. See this:

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair intends to create a global foundation to foster "greater understanding" between the three "Abrahamic faiths" of Christianity, Judaism and Islam after he leaves Downing Street.

Mr Blair, who will announce his timetable for resignation today, is expected to make the project the main focus of his energies when he leaves office this northern summer.

A member of his tight-knit inner-circle of advisers confirmed yesterday that Mr Blair is looking to "set up some sort of interfaith organisation", saying: "He sees this as where the action is and nobody else is really doing it."

. . . [T]he interfaith project will attempt to foster religious - rather than political - harmony in the Middle East and elsewhere across the world, including Britain, where rising tensions with militant Islam have provided the backdrop to many of the worst moments of his 10 years in office.

Mr Blair, who was enthusiastically reading the Koran even before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, said recently: "The tragedy is that as Christians, Jews and Muslims we are all Abrahamic religions. We regard ourselves as children of Abraham but we have fought for so long."

In a speech in 2006 he referred to a woman protesting about the Pope's recent visit to Turkey holding a poster which stated that "Jesus was a prophet but not the son of God". This, he said, was "elevating the placard to an altogether higher plane of theology".

He added: "Most Christians are hugely surprised to be told that the Koran reveres Jesus as a prophet. Many Jews, Muslims and Christians are entirely ignorant of the rich Abrahamic heritage we share in common."

Although aides acknowledge that the new project may face resistance from Muslims who loathe him for his role as an ally to Mr Bush and in the invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair believes that he can appeal to moderate Islam.

. . . Funding for the new organisation is expected to come from wealthy donors in the US and the Arab world, as well as Britain. But advisers insist that preparations are still at an early stage. . . .
Read the entire story here.

The absolute last thing we need is another major organization providing cover for Islam - and this has all the sounds of doing precisely that. What we do need is an international organization that will bring Wahhabi / Salafi Islam into the light of reality and subject it to reasoned criticism. I can assure you, however, funding for such an organization is not going to be forthcoming from wealthy Arab donors in the Middle East. The wealthy Arabs are the Saudis who spend their petrobillions spreading Wahhabi / Salafi Islam. If Mr. Blair will be receiving funding from wealthy Arabs, he will be pocketing money to be nothing more then a useful idiot for the Wahhabis, and a source of suicidal ignorace for the rest of Western civilization.

In the article, Mr. Blair asserts that Islam's classification as an Abrahamic religion is somehow relevant to Western understanding of Islam. That is something that I would expect to see written by a Wahabbi front organizations, such as CAIR in America or the MCB in the UK. Yes, the Koran has some references to Jesus. That is utterly meaningless in the scheme of things. It is like saying that blueberries and daphne berries are similar on the ground that both are berries. True enough, but the daphne berries will kill you if you eat them. If Mr. Blair intends to paint a picture of Islam based on points such as this, he will be doing nothing but contributing to the demise of Western Civilization while cashing in on riyals.

We in the West do not need someone feeding us any more unrealistic pictures that purport to show how peaceful Islam is and how much it is like Christianity. To the extent there are any parallels between Christianity and Wahhabi Salafi Islam, those parallels are limited to the form of Christianity that existed at the turn of the previous millenium. Wahhabi / Salafi Islam, which is rapidly becoming the dominant sect throughtout the Islamic world, is an incredibly racist, triumphalist and brutal religion that clearly has no respect for Judaism or Christianity. Will Mr. Blair be teaching that, as Christians, the Wahhabi's view us as polytheists, and in their school text books, they teach that it is appropriate to kill or enslave such people and take their property? How's that for a bit of reality. It certainly tells you more about Wahhabi Islam then does the point about Islam being an Abrihamic religion. And the BBC documentary Undercover Mosque teaches a lot more also.

If Mr. Blair actually wishes to do something of benefit to the world at large, for those of us in the West, he would develop a foundation dedicated to exposing Wahhabi Islam in all of its ugly reality. And as to the Islamic world, he would use the foundation to support the work of people like Tawfiq Hamid who are highly critical of Wahhabi / Salafi Islam and wish to see it moderate through the process of itjihad.

From the sounds of it, I don't think that I'll hold my breath for that type of foundaton from Mr. Blair. So the only question now, is Blair just a usefull idiot for the radical islamists, or is he greedy cynic with riyals in his eyes?


Dinah Lord said...

A foolish cynic?

A cynical fool?

After reading about this "global foundation to foster greater understanding" either of them seem to work.


Dinah Lord said...

Maybe Tony needs to read this...

So much for Christian-Muslim brotherhood.

scott said...

That is amazing. Tough to have that interfaith dialogue under when the host Muslim nation says nyet . . . or whatever is malayspeak for neyet. I do hope Tony is taking note, but I sincerely doubt it. I really do find this one troubling, because I happen to like Blair. But there are only two variant pics of him that can emerge from this one, and both are fatally flawed

billm99uk said...

I think he's basically well meaning, but ultimately shares the problematic belief with some right-wing religious Americans (e.g. D'Souza) that any religion is better than none. The whole thing about verses of the Koran having to be considered in order of the time they were written and thus the (largely peaceful) Meccan verses being over-ruled by the (more violent) Medinan phase seems to have passed him by.
That said, you have to remember that Islam in Britain twenty years ago, which Blair would have encountered when he was growing up, was largely of the pacifistic/mystically inclined Sufi-variant. The Saudi influence has to be understood as a relatively recent thing, assisted by large scale immigration to the UK from Pakistan.
Sad thing is, if you listen to some of Blair's recent speeches, he has actually come up with some of the best defences of the 'War on Terror' out there. If GWB had been half as lucid, maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we are now.

scott said...

Bill - thanks for your very insightful comments. The truth be known, I do not know the history of the growth of Islam in the UK, though I have some books on order that will hopefully remedy that. But your short remarks go a long way to explaining the problem. And it appears that the 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims, the sons of the Sufis if you will, are being radicalized by the Wahhabi / Salafi Islamists that now seem to dominate Islam in Britain.

While that may explain Blair's approach - if he learned of Islam at the knee of the Sufis - the Sufi's are not the problem today. If he wants to promote Sufism, that is certainly a worthy goal. I know that was the U.S. policy articulated back in 02. But the problem is, if portray Sufism as the face of Islam to the West while ignoring the 800 lbs (about 70 stone) gorilla in the room, you're still going to give a grossly distorted view of the kind of Islam that matters most to us non-Muslims - i.e., the kind that wants to kill us and spread their sect the world over. I do not need to understand Islam more then I do already, to be honest. I, and I think most people in our countries, are not reflexively "Islamaphobic." That said, I do need to understand how two specific subsets of Islam - Wahhabi / Salafi, and Khomeinist Shia'ism (well, you can probably add Deobandi also) are dangerous to the West.

We are democracy, and as such, the only way we can make informed decisions is to have all the basic facts in front of us. But I bet fewer then 1% of the electorate on both sides of the pond even know the difference between the differnet sects of Islam. Let me ask you Bill, if everyone in the UK understood the nature of Wahhabi Islam, would the UK have passed the legislation it did a few years ago criminalizing as hate speech the criticism of Islam?

Oh well, I drone. Sorry. You could not be more dead on point about Blair being the most powerful proponent of the war on terror. His speaking abilities and quickness of mind rival, in my estimation, Churchill. His speeches justifying the war on terror, the war in Iraq, and Britain's need to take part in them as an ally of the U.S. were stunning in the eloquence. I have long asked my friends across the pond to send him over here when you are done with him.

If you have read some of my other posts on here, you know that I think Bush's greatest single failing today is his inability to communicate. The same is true for most of our elected officials. They have all stayed above the fray, if you will, and tried to maintain both decorum and intellectual honesty - all of which has resulted in a tsunami of political consequences as the rules of the far left have supplanted traditional debate. It is precisely why we are in danger of leaving Iraq with no questions being asked about the costs and consequences. It is maddeningly suicidal.

At any rate, thanks for the great comment, Bill

scott said...

This is a post from Bill in the UK that was sent via e-mail because of google problems.

Sorry, I'm having to reply via e-mail but I'm having problems with Google at the moment for some reason.

For someone on the other side of the Atlantic, your understanding of
European problems isn't too bad ;)
You be amazed at the number of unobservant or Sufi Muslim parents or grandparents we've had on British TV over the past few months saying something along the lines of how they thought it was really sweet when little Mohammed started getting all religious, attending the mosque regularly, dressing in white robes and growing a beard. Perhaps now, they
thought, he wouldn't spend all his time hanging out with his reprobate
friends listening to gangsta rap and fooling around with skanky white gals. Maybe he'd meet a nice girl (or four) and settle down and start a family.

Then it turns out what little Mohammed has really been doing is planning to set off a massive bomb in a popular London night club or fly a plane kamikaze style into the Houses of Parliament.... It's rapidly becoming a media cliché, along the lines of those serial killers who always seem to be
described as "such a nice young man" by their neighbours. Clearly, the extremists now regard the Pakistani/British population as a great recruiting ground for prospective jihadis.

Yes the Religious Hatred Act certainly wasn't Blair's finest hour was it? You have to remember that Freedom of Speech in the American sense is a fairly recent and still fragile thing in Britain. Heck, we still had a
blasphemy law on the books until Blair repealed it (specifically protecting Christianity alone, of course). It had fallen into disuse following a couple of famous trials in the sixties, but I can still remember earnest debates in
the late seventies between John Cleese and Anglican bishops about whether 'The Life of Brian' should be allowed in UK cinemas. Like I said previously, Tony does have a little too much respect for a fellow religion and decided
to extend the law to cover all religions rather than just ending it entirely. Still at least parliament (and Mr. Bean!) rather got us out of that mess by significantly weakening it.

In other ways, the government position has hardened a little recently. They've stopped trying to get on with the (largely pro-jihadi) Muslim Council of Britain these days and seem to be trying to promote the (slightly
more reasonable) Sufi Muslim Council:

Not sure how this is going to work out, but it's a significant shift. That said, I still think we'll need another major atrocity on these shores before we get any stronger action. 7/7 was just too much 'business as usual' for us, following almost directly on from years of IRA bombings. It's depressing someone probably has to die for us to see any real political change but that's the way it is. I guess this parallels the situation in the US, where
the momentum for action following 9/11 seems to have run out, at least for the time being.

As far as the Churchill comparison goes, TB does share the tendency to stick to unpopular positions, even when the rest of his party believes he is wrong. He's fully behind the Iraq war still and it was his fight with most of his own party to repeal the infamous 'Clause 4' of the Labour Party constitution (pro-nationalisation of major industries) that originally brought him to prominence. I'm willing to give him a little more time to see what he comes up with before giving up on him, anyway. I hear he's hoping to make a little money on the lecture circuit in the US so I'm sure he'll get
asked the hard questions at some time.

Anyway, thanks for responding and I look forward to continuing to read your blog in the future.

Wales, UK

scott said...

I am very gladdened to see the government turning to the Sufi counsel rather then the MCB, but even the Sufi religion in Turkey is being radicalized by Wahhabism. Hopefully, that is not the case in the UK. The Wahhabis are adamant about Muslims not integrating into British society and adopting Western customs. Thus, the 70 page playbook for allowing Muslims to be treated differently in public schools that MCB published a few weeks ago. How do the UK Sufi's come out on things like that. To be honest, I know little of the UK Sufi's. Most of my attention has been on the MCB.

Bill, I have a real concern, perhaps unwarranted, but that small steps at this point will not help the UK. The ethos of multiculturalism seem just too ingrained in the UK at this point. When I look at the vast growth of Wahhabi Islam in the U.K., when I see it catered to in many regards, and when I see it effecting fundamentel changes, in the legal system that I posted on earlier and in the education system where UK teachers now shy away from teaching the Crusades and the Holocaust, etc., I am cocerned not only about the dilution of the Anglo Saxon ideals, if you will, but also that this will come to a bloody conclusion. It is impossible to criticize Islam without being charged with being, at best, an Islamaphobe worthy of the BNP, or at worst, a criminal as has happened on several occaisions to people in the UK who have said less then I have on this blog. And nothing I have said is either unwarranted or unfair. I do not make ad hominem attacks. Hell, I have Muslims in the family tree, actually. But, I think the stage is being set for there to be a very big backlash after the next round of Islamic violence. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Interestingly enough, our free speech rights come directly from England - they come out of Blackstone's manual that, along with British common law, formed the basis for the vast majority of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Things may have changed in England since 1776, but if you read our Decleration of Independence, what we were asking for from King George was to be treated like citizens of the crown across the pond. Indeed, if you read a lot of our Surpeme Court decisions on the meaning of our Constitution, the starting point is usually English law circa 1775. Google Blackstone & Supreme Court and god knows how many hits you'll get.

Thanks for the comments, Bill.


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