Tony Blair has claimed that support for the so-called Islamic State stretches “deep into parts of Muslim societies”.
In a speech in Washington on Thursday, the former prime minister said that while the majority of Muslims do reject the views of IS (also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh), there are still many who do not.
In the seventh Kissinger lecture at the Library of Congress, Blair said: “Those who believe in concepts of the caliphate and the apocalypse – so much part of Daesh propaganda – stretch deep into parts of Muslim societies.
“A belief in innate hostility between Islam and the West is not the preserve of the few.”
He continued: “Of course a large majority of Muslims completely reject Daesh-like jihadism and the terrorism which comes with it.
“However, in many Muslim countries large numbers also believe that the CIA or Jews were behind 9/11. Clerics who proclaim that non-believers and apostates must be killed or call for jihad against Jews have Twitter followings running into millions.
“The ideology has deep roots. We have to reach right the way down and uproot it.”
The comments caused some on Twitter to compare him to Donald Trump:
Tony Blair: sympathies for ISIS "stretch deep into parts of Muslim societies". Blair just went full Trump. https://t.co/NNVPamARUC— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) December 4, 2015
Others voiced their displeasure at his comments…
@guardian he should keep his gob shut instead of of fuelling the flames with his tongue more lethal than petroleum poured even. Well— Zahir Ahmed (@akalionrule) December 4, 2015
@guardian u r as Wrong Mr Blair as u were when invading Iraq. I'm Muslim and I hate ISIS more than u Mr Blair.— Hafeez Khan (@Hafeezhk) December 4, 2015
Some did, however, agree…
Support for Isis stretches 'deep into parts of Muslim societies,' says Blair - the guardian.
Spot on!! https://t.co/pXooAzrk9M— Mae Rene Joseph (@fab4hairnbeauty) December 4, 2015
I don't like Blair but this time he has a point!Isis stretches 'deep into parts of Muslim societies,' says Blair https://t.co/FsoRcPb9qD— Graham David Bell (@bellosvenska) December 4, 2015
Blair also used the speech to warn of the potential of attacks even more deadly than the recent massacre in Paris.
He said: "The Islamist ideology has also to be confronted.
"Today it can be, in alliance with the modernising and sensible voices within Islam determined to take the name and reputation of the faith of Islam back from the extremists.
"A continued failure to recognise the scale of the challenge and to construct the means necessary to meet it, will result in terrorist attacks potentially worse than those in Paris, producing a backlash which then stigmatises the majority of decent, law abiding Muslims and puts the very alliance so necessary at risk, creating a further cycle of chaos and violence."
Unsurprisingly, Blair backed current military intervention in Syria, saying: "They [Islamic State] have to be eliminated on the ground not just in Syria and Iraq, but in Libya too and the other countries in which they are present.
"Together with our allies, we have to do what it takes to defeat them completely. This will require a combination of military, diplomatic and political measures. This doesn't always have to centre on our ‘boots on the ground’. Our forces can play a supporting role to others.
"This is a battle we will win. There is no doubt in my mind of that. From one corner of the world to the other, the overwhelming majority of people want to live in harmony and peace. The Islamist fanatics will never kill the spirit of our civilisation. They will be defeated. We will endure.
"But it will require leadership, vision and a determination that only full measures will do."