From the UK Daily Mail
Tony Blair has warned that ‘flabby liberalism’ is helping terrorists because Britain’s elite feel too ‘guilty’ to tackle the spread of extremism.
The former Labour prime minister said many in politics are now ‘unwilling to take people on’, fearing that they will be seen as intolerant of other cultures.
Speaking ahead of today’s terror atrocities in Brussels, he branded such an approach ‘ridiculous’ and said it had left our country’s liberal values vulnerable to abuse.
Mr Blair urged the establishment to ‘defeat violence’ by ‘attacking extremist thinking’ in schools and wider society. And he said there needs to be a tougher centre ground approach to migration and the refugee crisis, which for many politicians is a still a toxic issue.
Tony Blair has warned that ‘flabby liberalism’ is helping terrorists because Britain’s elite feel too ‘guilty’ to tackle the spread of extremism
He told the BBC: ‘We're in a situation where we have to fight back.
‘The centre has become flabby and unwilling to take people on. We concede far too much.
‘There's this idea that you're part of an elite if you think in terms of respectful tolerance towards other people. It's ridiculous.’
He added that too often moderate voices are defensive about arguing their case, fuelling a culture of extremism in religion and politics.
‘One of the problems with the West is that it constantly can be made to feel guilty about itself - and I'm not saying there aren't things we should feel guilty about,’ he said.
‘But you know, we shouldn't let people intimidate us into thinking there are certain values we shouldn't be standing up for.
‘I'm a supporter of multiculturalism. But there's been a long period of time when we've allowed the concept of multiculturalism to be abused.’
As an example, he said that if people were asserting the equality and fair treatment of women that they should not be made to feel ‘somehow we're being culturally insensitive’.
‘We have to be clear no one has the right to abrogate those basic human rights.’
On the challenge of migration and refugees, he said that in an ‘era of anxiety’, a lack of a coherent mainstream response, has opened the door to more extreme arguments.
A lack of action from moderates often prompts people to turn to the hard right, he warned.
‘You have to give a real solution and not one which is populist but false,’ he said.
‘If you don't give a solution, and you leave people with a choice between what I would call a bit of flabby liberalism and the hardline, they'll take the hardline I'm afraid.’
He called for a more assertive policy of ‘muscular centrism’.
And in apparent reference to the Trojan Horse scandal, in which hardliners tried to impose an Islamic agenda on state schools, he said tackling extremism begins in the classroom.
Speaking ahead of today’s terror atrocities in Brussels (pictured), he branded such an approach ‘ridiculous’ and said it had left our country’s liberal values vulnerable to abuse.
Mr Blair said: ‘The truth is this extremism is being incubated in school systems, formal and informal, which are teaching children a narrow minded and often hateful view of those who are different.
‘What people need to understand is that this culture of hate is taught.
‘They are taught a culture of hate and they can be untaught it.
‘This extremist thinking is what you have to attack, if you don't attack the ideology you'll never defeat the violence.’
Mr Blair also challenged the idea that promoting values of tolerance was a form of Western cultural interference.
‘The West has just got to get over this,’ he said.
‘There are many other people in the region who do not regard the notion of peaceful co-existence as a Western value, they see it as a sensible human value, a global value.’
The former prime minister also warned that both the far right and far left were promoting arguments in favour of ‘isolationism and protectionism’.
‘People are very anxious and uncertain and they are turning to the demagogic populism of left and right.’
After leaving office, Mr Blair set up a foundation which works to promote greater understanding between the world's religions and to challenge extremism and prejudice.
He is planning a global project to prevent extremism through education.