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Focus on Islamism
Wednesday 10th November 2010
Blair on Muslim integration


Tony Blair has written a fantastic piece for the Wall Street Journal about ‘making Muslim integration work'. As ever, it is spot on. His piece reminds us of the clarity and sense of purpose which pervaded his administration, and which is so desperately lacking today.

Blair pulls no punches, but neither does he pander to the easy canards about Islam and Muslims that have currently become so fashionable among a band of intellectually dishonest (or defeated) and self-appointed 'experts' in Europe and the United States. What he demonstrates is the purpose of the progressive agenda at its best against the rise of far-right extremism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

...violence is bound up with all sorts of political and regional disputes, but it feeds into the European alarm that immigration, terrorism, religious faith and ethnicity are all dimensions of the same problem.

The danger, certainly in Europe, is very clear. Especially in tough economic times, this issue can inject division, sectarianism and even racism into societies based on equality. Traditional political parties get trapped. Either they pander, but of course they can never pander enough; or they seem in a state of denial and condemn themselves to the position of out-of-touch elites. The backlash grows. The center ground becomes diminished.

We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it. Most Muslims are as much at ease with their citizenship in the U.K. as I am. I dare say that is true in other European nations too.

He goes on to offer a lucid exposition of what happens when the political mainstream fails to admit this problem:

However, some don't integrate. But when we talk about this in general terms, without precision, for fear of "stigmatizing" Muslims, we alienate public opinion and isolate the majority of Muslims who are integrating and want to be as much part of our society as any other group. Then, because we won't identify the problem as it is, a subterranean debate takes the place of an open one, and that debate lumps all Muslims together. So in the interest of "defending" the Muslim community, we actually segregate it by refusing to have an honest debate about what is happening.

Personally, I would go further here, and that is Blair only identifies one side of the equation. More Muslims also need to mobilise themselves to be part of this debate. It is not just the failure of the political class — though a great deal of blame must be levelled against them — but also of ordinary Muslims not to have confronted sooner, and with more vigour, the extremist threat within our communities.

But Blair is right to note the counter-intuitive point here. That is, those who preach pieties about ‘vilifying Muslims' whenever genuine (and accurate) concerns are raised about some preachers, play into the hands of political extremists. Their refusal to engage in honest debate about what is happening drives it underground. Those on the political periphery are then empowered because they appear brave and willing to challenge an unfair status quo defended by an unsympathetic orthodoxy.

Blair's article goes on to examine how we might overcome this quagmire:

...distinguish clearly and carefully between the common space, shared by all citizens, and the space where we can be different. We have different faiths. We practice them differently. We have different histories, different cultures and different views. Some citizens will genuinely and properly not like some of the more liberal tendencies of Western life. We can differ over this.

But there has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.

This is a drum I have beat for a long time. Last year I published a pamphlet for Policy Exchange which looked at this very issue: how the normative social values of the state should be championed by government and made an integral part of immigration, integration and Prevent policies.

After all, what is al-Qaeda's challenge to the West if not — at its core — a challenge over values and the way we live?

Finally, Blair notes:

The first step in fighting back is to recognize the nature of the struggle. That is why what is happening in Europe today is not some random eruption of anti-immigrant sentiment that will subside as fast as it has arisen. We have seen many of those before. This is different: deeper, more dangerous than any in recent years, and ultimately connected to what is building in the rest of the world. It is time to wake up.

Quite! The piece is worth reading in full here.

Is it wrong to say I miss Blair?

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Jeremy Poynton
January 3rd, 2011
4:01 PM
@BlairSupporter November 12th, 2010 11:11 PM , because Labour are genuinely without political or racial rancour towards immigrants Labour has seemed not to discourage the flood of immigration and the rumblings of extremism when clearly it should have // Not to mention that 80% of non-EU immigrants vote Labout of course. That wouldn't have anything to do with it... would it? BY THE WAY SITE OPERATOR - THESE INPUT BOXES ARE VBERY HARD TO DISCERN IF ONE IS HARD OF SIGHT. The borders are very faint, as is the typeface used for the input. Please fix.

Jeremy Poynton
January 3rd, 2011
4:01 PM
Have to say, this is way off beam. This article in this same publication nails the problem exquisitely The problem with Islam IS Islam. We need to keep Islam at arm's length until Islam changes - not embrace it. The British government's attitude to Islamic fundamentalism in out midst has done exactly that - embraced it in the forlorn hope that being "nice" to it will make it "nice" in turn. Fundamentalism of any hue is not and never will be "nice". Tha classic exampled of this was the attempt to prosecute Channel 4 for broadcasting a programme exposing hate preachers in mosques in the Midlands. The CPS wanted them prosecuted for "inciting racial hatred". That way madness lies.

December 17th, 2010
5:12 PM
Er yes, totally fantastic exposition of the difficult position we are in, Shiraz, but remind me who it was who was in charge while all this non-integration was taking place? Blair coming up with this while for 13 years New Labour cossetted and funded some of the most extreme Muslim elements in Britain is beyond offensive. Pass the sick bag!

J Muir
December 16th, 2010
6:12 PM
the same old vacuous hot air from blair. If there's one person who should be in the dock for the state we're in its 'holy tony'. 'The centre ground becomes diminished,' he opines from on high. He should know, he helped to destroy it. Which is why things fall apart. The sooner someone succeeds with a citizens arrest on this sanctimonious hypocrite the sooner we'll be able to say justice has been done.

November 19th, 2010
3:11 PM
"It is the progressives that have put us in this dhimmi state we live in today in the first place" This comment says it all about this site and the extreme anti-Muslim bigots it attracts

November 12th, 2010
11:11 PM
Harvey and Bill Corr put neatly (so we don't have to go to the Guardian to find the REAL truth) what our problem in Britain is today. Denial, political or personal bitterness against our own politicians, and a simple misreading of the societal situation we find ourselves in. It was NOT Mr Blair who opened the door to multiculturalism but the Conservatives of 30 years ago. But yes, it is arguably true that for reasons of sticking it to the Tories, AND because Labour are genuinely without political or racial rancour towards immigrants Labour has seemed not to discourage the flood of immigration and the rumblings of extremism when clearly it should have. However, again, it is all too easy to be down on Blair for this. His government incorporated the Human Rights Act into English law and fully participated in the open doors policy across the EU, the latter seen at that time as necessary in order to fill unwanted British jobs. Now the former, the Human Rights Act seems to serve extremists better than it does the rest of us. A case of unintended consequences? I too, though, have been critical for some time - well the last three years since Blair left to be precise - over silence from Gordon Brown (and the other paries) on Muslims who failed to integrate. And I too have blamed that at least partly on Labour's dependency on the Muslim vote in inner city seats. In fact, with an articulate leader - oh, all right, then - with Blair still there - Labour might have been able to hold many of those inner-city seats, AND distance extremists from the main body of non-violent Muslims. Come to think of it, they DID still hold onto most of the inner city seats! It was the rural, south of England, sort of Blairite/Toryish/Lib-Demish seats they lost. Whichever way you look at it - Blair is missed. I've just written on Tony Blair's opinion piece here at my blog: It'd be something if we ever heard Cameron or Clegg (no chance there!) stating how THEY were going to address these issues. Sometimes I feel just like the little swetheart in the video.

November 11th, 2010
11:11 AM
It is the progressives that have put us in this dhimmi state we live in today in the first place. This is the same Blair who himself converted to Catholism and his sister in law to Islam. These people are against their own culture and faith, let them go their way, but I'll be damned if I think for a minute that he is sincere. For your information, Blair said something in his recent speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. That time he said that the West was outmanoeuvred by the islamists. This is from the guy who gave a home to the islamists.

Bill Corr
November 11th, 2010
11:11 AM
This article is pukeworthy and a disgrace. When Blair was in power, Islamists were cossetted and encouraged - just so long as Labour could realistically count on the bloc Muslim vote. It is not necessary to go into detail about how Labour-in-Power thought that postal votes for all - with all the possibilities that postal votes offer - were a jolly good idea.* Now that Blair is playing at being a wise elder statesman in the manner of Grocer Heath or Tricky Dicky Nixon, he would have us believe that he now thinks Islamists are not altogether super people. * Baroness Warsi broadly hinted that electoral trickery in Muslim-rich areas had held three Parliamentary seats for Labour.

Keith Parker
November 11th, 2010
10:11 AM
Many people miss Tony Blair so don`t be ashamed. I wish he was Prime Minister right now.

November 11th, 2010
8:11 AM
It helps to put to the side altogether (if only temporarily) those political and regional disputes (e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or ongoing conflicts in Muslim lands) and European alarm [at] immigration [and even] terrorism. And, concentrate instead on those “everyday” Muslim beliefs and practices that make finding the shared space that Mr Blair believes in such an enormous challenge. Have a look here: It gives over 200 headlines (and sources) from the last three months news starting with “Ofsted praises Islamic schools which oppose Western lifestyle”

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

To contact the authors, click here

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