We seem to thrive on fear and this is especially true of what many 'westerners' think when it comes to what the Islamic world represents. Whilst the Islamic world has certainly had a past cultural glory when it made contributions to the arts, mathematics and sciences, even with this, there's the historical record of western prejudice against Muslims (see Orientalism). So whether one's opinions originate from a historic Christian set of values or a modern liberal or politically Eurocentric set of values, there is likely to be some point of difference/conflict with a given view in Islam. Adding to that the fear mongering, as in the interview here, and the type of responses that it provokes invariably there is a lack of a balanced and thoughtful judgement when it comes to Muslim-Christian (read 'western') relations.
In this interview with The Telegraph, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair continues to peddle the same old fear with his opinions on 'militant Islam'. I am not going to deny the marginalisation and subsequent radicalisation of Muslims and nor do I excuse it. It is wrong in fact - but one needs to consider the historical relationships of the east and the west to understand why differing sides are often caught up in conflict. A deep misunderstanding and fear continues to inform the way Islam is perceived and both the west and the Muslim world need to self-reflect to consider how their own actions affect the other. I will say however, for there to be a meaningful dialogue that the major need for self reflection vis-à-vis the other should come from 'Christian' west, who must come to terms with their own historical bias and personal animosity.
This might have nothing to do with how he feels, but Tony Blair is a 'new' Catholic and without doubt, a career politician. He knows how to draw attention to the fears/thoughts of middle England and exploit them for his own purposes. I wonder, if many readers of commentators on The Telegraph interview realised that Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, is in fact, a Muslim? (She spent time in Iran). Mr Blair, himself is now, a somewhat lacklustre international figure. He has, by all accounts, been a low-impact UN peace envoy to the middle east and all indications are that he has profited healthily from this 'unpaid' position.
Just goes to show, that with a little manipulation, the old forms of hatred and bigotry surface in order to wage contemporary political battles.
Image Credits: ShaneBertou