Tony Blair sees hope within the Muslim world in fight against fanaticism

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, Muslims remain the best hope to defeat terrorists who practice a “perversion” of their religion.

Speaking on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,“ Blair said, “One of the lessons I've certainly learned in the last 20 years is this will only be defeated by an alliance with those strong voices now within Islam who want to retrieve their religion from extremism, and our job should be to help them, and to support them,“ adding that the Western world must make it clear it is not attacking Islam but “its perversion.“

Blair was Britain’s prime minister at the time of the unprecedented Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 — “Nothing had happened on this scale,“ Blair said — and subsequently joined American efforts to combat Osama bin Laden and the groups behind those strikes. He has remained active in international affairs since leaving office in 2007.

He argued that the fanatical forces behind the lethal attacks in 2001 were a continuation of a historic trend among violent factions that have politicized Islam.

“The ideology is an ideology based on religious conviction. It's extensive in the sense that it has a global footprint. It's in many different parts of the world. It's grown over a long period of time, and in its most radical form, it espouses this violent jihadhism which justifies the killing of people, Muslims who don't agree with them, those of us who live under different systems.”

But he made it clear that it was not the religion itself that was at fault. And Blair also said he saw hope in challenges to militant Islamists within the Muslim world.

“The vast majority of those Muslims who have lost their life have been killed by other Muslims,“ he said, “and this is part of the tragedy. Now as I always say to people there is some good news in all of this, because there is a real fight back within the Muslim world.“

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