Former prime minister Tony Blair’s ability to debunk conventional wisdom and show disdain for political correctness has only grown since his departure from 10 Downing Street. His subject today is the rise of a separatist Islamist population in Europe:
We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it. Most Muslims are as much at ease with their citizenship in the U.K. as I am. I dare say that is true in other European nations too.
However, some don’t integrate. But when we talk about this in general terms, without precision, for fear of “stigmatizing” Muslims, we alienate public opinion and isolate the majority of Muslims who are integrating and want to be as much part of our society as any other group. Then, because we won’t identify the problem as it is, a subterranean debate takes the place of an open one, and that debate lumps all Muslims together. So in the interest of “defending” the Muslim community, we actually segregate it by refusing to have an honest debate about what is happening.
Now there’s some honesty, a stark contrast to our own president, who can’t figure out that a mosque at Ground Zero should be moved or how to define “jihad.” What Blair brings to the discussion is moral clarity and an unwillingness to ignore the obvious. We are involved in an ideological struggle. Our enemies are motivated by Islamic radicalism, which seeks not accommodation but subjugation of those who dissent from their extremist views. And what should be the response? Blair recommends:
[T]here has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.
And just as essential is the insistence that criticism and debate not be squelched as Islamophobic. Blair is encouraging the kind of debate that defines the duty of citizens in a pluralistic society and how best to respond to those who seek to destroy pluralism. After two years of pandering and obfuscation by the Obama administration, it is refreshing to hear a reasoned and mature voice on the international stage.