POLITICS

Tony Blair Calls For Global Religious Respect Lessons To Combat Extremism

15/10/2014 10:19 BST | Updated 15/10/2014 13:00 BST

A month after calling for Western troops on the ground to combat Islamic State (IS), Tony Blair has claimed military action against extremism will "count for nothing" unless the underlying causes of extremism are addressed.

In an essay for the BBC the former prime minister said while force is required to defeat organisations like Islamic State, the underlying causes of extremism must be confronted through education.

As well as stopping the "scourge" of groups like Boko Haram, who abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria six months ago, Blair said world leaders must "uproot the thinking of the extremists, not simply disrupt their actions".

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Blair Interventions

He called for a worldwide agreement on teaching the younger generation to respect all religions, saying the rise of extremist groups is a "perversion of faith that has been growing unchecked".

He said: "We need at the G20, or some other appropriate forum, as soon as we can, to raise this issue as a matter of urgent global importance and work on a common charter to be accepted by all nations, and endorsed by the UN, which makes it a common obligation to ensure that throughout our education systems, we're committed to teaching the virtue of religious respect."

Blair, who heads the Tony Blair Faith Foundation aiming to work against religious prejudice, said defeated extremist groups will simply be replaced by new ones which continue to spread their violent ideology if the root causes are not tackled.

"In order to fight a warped and worsening ideology in the long term we need to recognise that education is a security issue," he said.

He added that he was not calling for an end to religious schools, but an emphasis on the importance of respect and towards people of other faiths.

His latest essay comes after Blair advocated military action on the ground to combat IS.

In it he said: "There can be an abundance of diplomacy, all necessary relief of humanitarian suffering, every conceivable statement of condemnation which we can muster, but unless they're accompanied by physical combat, we will mitigate the problem but not overcome it.

"Air power is a major component of this, to be sure, especially with the new weapons available to us. But - and this is the hard truth - air power alone will not suffice.

"They can be hemmed in, harried and to a degree contained by air power. But they can't be defeated by it."