Muslims as well as many people in the civil liberty and anti-war camps across the world have condemned the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his speech at Bloomberg London HQ on April 23, 2014. In his speech he said "The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation."
Tony Blair knows how to attract public attention. From British Muslim point of view the former Prime Minister has been a disaster, not only for demonising the Muslim communities but also for weakening the harmony between Muslims and others. Ever since he subscribed to a neocon ideology and decided to invade Iraq with Messianic zeal, Blair has been obsessed with 'Islamic extremism'. With his warped mind and coloured eyes he sees the demon of 'radical Islam' everywhere, which is in the process of taking over the whole world.
There is no denying the fact that violent extremism and terrorism - caused by a tiny section of extremists - has been a blight on Muslims in recent times. Their actions are totally unacceptable and have been rejected by the overwhelming number of Muslims here, from all traditions of the faith. These faceless and nameless violent extremists are a major thorn to Muslims worldwide.
Yet Blair's hardened soul fails to recognise key facts. Along with his 'partner-in-crime', George W Bush, he was the key architect of an illegal invasion of a sovereign country in 2003, undertaken without a UN mandate and against the will of the international community. The US-led invasion, dubbed as 'Shock and Awe' in military parlance, plunged the already-fractured Middle East into paralysis. The historic land of Iraq saw, under the world's media lens, a massacre and destruction that could only be compared with the Mongol invasion in 1258. Death, destruction and pillage that visited this once seat of learning and capital of the Abbasid Muslim civilisation is still haunting Iraq and the Middle East today. The US-led war claimed the lives of 500,000 Iraqi people and 4,486 U.S. soldiers; it cost more than $2 trillion to the US economy. No wonder why some people want Blair to be in the dock of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Tony Blair came to power with much energy and hope. His 1997 election slogan was the empowering watchword 'education, education, education'. He won three successive general elections. But the illegal Iraq war and internal party squabbles ended his career in British politics in 2007.
Ever since, he has doggedly issued his battle cry against a perceived "enemy" within Islam. He used the dodgy dossier on "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): The Assessment of the British Government" to attack the country. The September Dossier, as it was called, contained a number of false allegations such as Iraq possessed WMDs, including chemical and biological weapons; the dossier even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme; but "without exception, all of the allegations included within the September Dossier were false."
Opposition to the Iraq War was intense and worldwide. February 15, 2003 saw a coordinated day of protests in which more than 600 world cities took part; this was "the largest protest event in human history". In London one million people (some say even two million) marched against war and central London was paralysed by sombre and peaceful protesters from all spectrum of life.
But Blair was hell-bent on joining Bush's war. He was able to convince the MPs for the war with a knife-edge majority in the House of Commons. The former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, who resigned on May 12, 2003, accused Blair saying "Blair duped us all along. We were misled. We were deceived."
This was a grave political mistake that has changed the shape of the Middle East.
The 7/7 atrocities in London by four Muslim terrorists also changed the political landscape of Britain, particularly for Muslims. Blair came up with his now-infamous phrase: "Let no one be in any doubt that the rules of the game are changing." He threatened to close 'places of worship' and proscribe (more hardline) Muslim groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Muslim community suddenly found itself under a blitz from the neocon Right, both politicians and in the media. This mantle has continued under other guises and been taken up by the wider "counter-jihadism" movement, of which the Norwegian killer Anders Breivik and the English Defence League were but two of the more violent parts.
Blair government's reaction to 7/7 was to introduce the Prevent agenda that heavily conflated community cohesion and security. The 'securitisation' of the Muslim community has, over the years, created a depressing situation where Muslims are now seen as a 'suspect community'. In a wider review under a parliamentary committee, led by ex-MP Dr Phyllis Starkey, Prevent was found to be counter-productive towards the end of Gordon Brown's government. But the Coalition government tightened it further; the Muslim community is paying a heavy price.
Ironically, Tony Blair was appointed as the world's ambassador to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after he left Downing Street in 2007. But he dismally failed in his job and openly sided with autocratic regimes in the Middle East. This has made him totally unfit to make any comment on Middle East.
President G W Bush, the main architect of Iraq war and Blair's close friend, has gone from the political scene and kept quiet after leaving White House. It is time Tony Blair does the same and stops dividing the world by beating the drums of war.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is an author and commentator on social and political issues. He was the former Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10).
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.