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Tony Blair Calls for a Fight against Extremism through Religious Education

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Tony Blair, former Prime Minister, says underlying causes of religious conflicts must be confronted through educating young people.

Only once the underlying cause of extremism has been addressed that military action against the same will bear fruit, according to Tony Blair, the former UK Prime Minister, who have recently controversially suggested that there should be troops on the ground dealing with the Islamic state. The former Prime Minister pointed this out in a lengthy essay for the BBC that highlighted the importance of combating extremism through education. Blair believes that defeated extremists can simply replace the defeated extremists with new recruits, who had the same extremist ideologies engraved in them since childhood.

Extremism has been on a recent rise, driven by the empowerment of extremist groups such as the Islamic State. Surprisingly, such extremist ideas are now traversing across borders, religions and age-groups. Various leaders have been pushing for a more hands-on military offense against the growing extremist groups, including the former Prime Minister. Forty countries, led by the US, have joined arms in a bid to react to the recent events in Syria and Iraq. Blair, however, has added a new dimension to the approach on how to confront extremism, in spite of his advocacy for military action. He further points out that extremism is a “perversion of faith that has been growing unchecked” and the only way to stop it is by severing it at the root. Most importantly, the younger generation should learn how  to respect all religions in a bid to smoothen the hardened stance most extremists have against other religious groups.

Blair has already taken a step towards this initiative. His foundation, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation mainly aims towards tackling such religious prejudice. The foundation has a presence across 30 countries including Pakistan and Singapore where they teach young kids to understand the beliefs of others. Additionally, kids also get a chance to video-conference with schools in other regions. His organization has already reached 100,000 kids worldwide; and although Blair believes this is not enough, he notes that these programs have been proven time and again to be vastly efficient. Such engagement can only give these students a positive outlook on members of another religion. Such ideology is guaranteed to grow over time, and counter any extremist ideology that they come across as they grow older.

Nevertheless, Tony Blair insists that he is not pushing for an end to religious schools; Catholic, Muslim schools and the likes should continue teaching the values of their religion to their kids. However, they should learn that people of a different faith deserve to be respected.

You can find the full essay at the BBC News Site.


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