West didn’t incite Islamic extremism, Blair says

Blair and BushIslamic extremists have no real grievance against the West, former British prime minister Tony Blair says, and Western democracies should stand up and say so.

Mr. Blair said that, faced with terrorism and extremist rage, liberal-minded Westerners sometimes assume that “there’s something that we should be doing, or have done, that is causing this.” In fact, he told a lunchtime audience in Toronto yesterday, extremism is the result of an internal fight over the future of Islam, not any crime or injustice perpetrated by the West against Muslims. “The truth is that they have no sense of grievance against us,” he said.

If democratic countries want to defeat extremism, he said, they have to be ready to say that it is more than the extremists’ methods they abhor. “It is the presumed sense of grievance. It is the idea that we are the cause of an injustice.”

His comments got a round of applause from a sold-out audience in a downtown ballroom. Tickets to the event, An Afternoon with Tony Blair, co-sponsored by The Globe and Mail, went for $400 each.

Globe and Mail, 18 January 2008