Monday, October 11, 2010

Tony Blair’s Colonial Blinders

Middle East Online, Oct 11, 2010

Tony Blair’s story about ‘Islamic extremism’ reminds us precisely why the world rose up in the early and mid-20th Century against European colonialism and racism that denied much of the rest of the world both its political rights and its fundamental humanity, says Rami G. Khouri.

BOSTON — When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) get together, you know that something slightly frightening will happen — given that WINEP is a leading voice of pro-Israeli sentiment in Washington and Blair is the world’s leading example of neo-colonial Western political leadership that speaks nicely of making peace in the Middle East but in reality mostly makes war or ignores the real causes of the conflict at hand. We were not disappointed last week, when WINEP awarded Blair its 2010 Scholar-Statesman Award. His remarks clarified a main reason why Western-Arab-Asian tensions persist, and even worsen.

Blair’s basic point was that we need a revolution in our thinking to defeat Islamic extremism by “defeating the narrative that nurtures it… The practitioners of the extremism are small in number. The adherents of the narrative stretch far broader into parts of mainstream thinking. And what is this narrative? It is that Islam is basically oppressed by the West, disrespected, and treated unfairly, that the military action we took post-9/11 was against countries because they are Muslim, and that in the Middle East we ignore the injustice done to Palestinians in our desire to support Israel because the Palestinians are Muslims and the Israelis predominantly Jews. It is a narrative that now has vast numbers of assembled websites, blogs, and organizations. And of course, many of those that agree with this narrative abhor the terrorism. But as the support across the Middle East for the Muslim Brotherhood shows, far too many buy into far too much of the analysis of the extremists, if not their methodology…. So in my judgment, what we should be doing instead is confronting the narrative head-on, forming an alliance across the face and across the divides of culture and civilization to defeat it.”

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