Dear Tony Blair: Islam is not the problem

(Photo credit: Patrick McMullan) In response to the continuing pedophilia epidemic which has rocked the Catholic Church around the world … Continued


(Photo credit: Patrick McMullan)

In response to the continuing pedophilia epidemic which has rocked the Catholic Church around the world for decades, let us imagine that there was a high-profile former prime minister of a prominent country who went on-the-record to state that this pedophilia epidemic somehow shows the world that there was an inherent “problem within Christianity.”

How do you think that most Christians around the world would react to this kind of blanket statement about their religion?

I think it would be pretty fair to say that over 99.9 percent of the world’s Christian community would be quite offended that a former prime minister of a major world power would have the audacity to blame their entire religion for the acts of a miniscule minority of people who may happen to share that same faith.

But this is exactly what happened recently with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and statements that he made about the religion of Islam.

According to The Washington Post, it was reported that former British prime minister Tony Blair recently wrote in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper about what he said was “a problem within Islam” that must be faced in the aftermath of the gruesome public slaying in London of a British soldier named Lee Rigby by men reportedly claimed to be “avenging” the deaths of Muslims.

Wait a minute, Mr. Prime Minister.

Yes, there are certainly major problems with Christian, Jewish and Muslim people around the world today, but these problems are not with the religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This sort of blanket reductionism is like blaming Catholicism as a religion for the pedophilia epidemic and not the criminals committing these acts. As such, these statements by Mr. Blair are not fitting for a respected major world leader who has dedicated his post-political life to interfaith work around the world.

This whole Tony Blair episode reminds me of a recent CNN interview that I did after the Boston Marathon bombings where I stated quite unequivocally that:

“Islamic extremists are about as ‘Muslim’ as the Westboro Baptist Church is ‘Christian’.”

The reason that I will always sincerely believe this sentiment is because since there is literally no religion on earth that condones illegal murder as part of its basic teachings, it would behoove our major world leaders (especially those dedicated to interfaith work) to not fall into the trap of casting simplistic blanket aspersions against other major world religions for the acts of a crazy minority of their “believers.”

Because if we continue to blame the religions and not the flawed believers, then we will be needlessly falling into the trap that the extremists have laid out there for the rest of us.

Arsalan Iftikhar is founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, senior editor for The Islamic Monthly magazine and author of the book “Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era.

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  • Fariba Mitchell

    I was born and raised Muslim, although I escaped that Hell-on-earth later in life. It is you who is ignorant if you think tolerating intolerance itself (which is what Islam constitutes) is the right thing to do or worse you think this is what our Constitution mandates! A lot of people are making arguments on behalf of Islam without understanding what Islam really is. Let me spell it out for you: It is NOT a religion of peace. It is an ideology of conquest (through any means necessary ranging from violence to deceit) and oppression. The people who showed up in Tennessee at that event are people who are fully engaged in their own governance. They don’t want or need a U.S. attorney to interpret their rights for them! They know their rights and they showed up to assert those rights and to create awareness for others. Truth is not hate speech and we are fools if we allow our government to define it as such!

  • Rongoklunk

    Great post Fariba. You are one of the few who overcame religious indoctrination. You should be proud. I’ve often wondered if I could have overcome religious indoctrination. Luckily I didn’t have too.
    But seeing how most people submit to whatever religion they were taught to believe in – I wonder if I would be any different. It’s powerful stuff having the idea of a God pushed into our brains when we are too young to resist it, or argue against it. In the ideal world there would be a law against it. But I think that religious beliefs are on the ropes because the more we understand about the real world, and existence itself, the more religion looks like what it is – superstitious nonsense that comes to us from our very ancient ancestors, who knew hardly anything about the world they found themselves in, and invented thousands of Gods.

    But most scientists agree, we no longer need that hypothesis.

  • David Thompson

    It is wrong to say that either Christianity, Judaism, or Islam is or is not violent based on the interviews of people. These people read from a book they claim to be god’s inspired word. If you read the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qu’ran there is no doubt they are all intolerant based on their text. Stoning or putting people to the sword can be found in all three compilations.

    Now if you want to do a pirouette around these texts that’s fine, but don’t say the text is not there, giving the adherent permission in the name of god/allah to do these acts righteously. Until those Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Medieval books are gutted of their hatred and intolerance, all three Abrahamic religions are by default of text, not religions of peace.

  • Hildy J

    Someday maybe we can strike a real blow against intolerance by treating religious “education” of children as the abusive indoctrination that it is.

  • Joe Carey

    The author’s analogy falls flat on its face. While I can show you hundreds of verses in the Quran exhorting Muslims to fight infidels – those who do not revere the Allah of the Quran as the only God and Muhammad as his final messenger – I challenge the author to show me a single verse in the Bible that encourages pedophilia.

    And while the violence in the Old Testament, a common argument used in an attempt at a moral equivalency between the Bible and Quran, does not apply to Christians today of the New Testament era, the violence in the Quran does apply to Muslims today, since they are contained in the final chapters revealed to Muhammad; his final marching orders, so to speak.

  • Abey

    The author pontificates thus

    “…… there is literally no religion on earth that condones “illegal” murder as part of its basic teachings.”
    Wrong! Islam does except Muslims can find many verses in the Quran to justify any kind of murder. The poetess Asma bint Marwan was “legally” murdered among her babies because the Muslim prophet did not like a verse she had written.

  • Abey

    Muslims are the last people to talk about pedophilia. Their prophet “married” an eight years old child. If that is not pedophilia I do not know what is pedophilia. Furthermore the Muslim Paradise is crawling with “beautiful” young boys roaming around carrying jars of wine to serve the faithful as they recline underneath silken tents.

  • 3vandrum

    “Pedophilic epidemic” is in no way comparable to worldwide terrorism caused by the islamic iextremists. “Pedophilic epidemic” if it is true, affects only a small % of catholic children but Islamic extremism affects almost everyone. Arsalan should spend his time and energy in finding out how to eradicate this problem within islam and write an article on that subject instead of blaming Tony Blair for pointing out the problem. As long as “moderate muslims” remain silent and ignore the problem it is not going to go away. The whole world is fed up with these extremists and the world wide chaos they create after every attack including airport security etc. They are not ordinary criminals

  • Muslimsforpeace

    I wonder why the Islam of the handful extremist is more genuinely true islam when they attribute their actions to Quran whereas a majority of muslims are peaceful and attribute it to Holy QURAN AS WELL. BUT BEING in majority still their ISLAm Is not credible?

  • Muslimsforpeace

    I wonder why the Islam of the handful extremist is more genuinely true islam when they attribute their actions to Quran whereas a majority of muslims are peaceful and attribute it to Holy QURAN AS WELL. BUT BEING in majority still their ISLAm Is not credible?

  • SODDI

    Westboro Baptists ARE real christians.

    And Al Qaeda ARE real muslims.

    You want to sever yourselves from the evil your religions are doing. It may make you sleep better at night, but it is not true.

  • bobaluchowdury

    “Islamic extremists are about as ‘Muslim’ as the Westboro Baptist Church is ‘Christian’.”
    This is completely true. The Westboro Baptist Church does not get it’s belief system from thin air. Their intolerance is directly derived from ancient holy scripture. The same goes for the Islamic extremists. The reason there are so many pedophiles in the catholic church is that many men who are raised catholic but are inflicted with perversion think that they can remedy their conflicting desires by immersing themselves in religion. It isn’t working.

  • bobaluchowdury

    Of course peaceful muslims have a credible version of Islam. The problem is that the extremists have credibility too. Islam like all religions is very flexible. If the credibility of the extremists could be disproven it would have been. The peacefuls have common sense and an innate sense of humanity on their side. The extremists have scripture written by a 7th century warrior culture to back them up.

  • bobaluchowdury

    If a murder is condoned by a religion then by default that murder is legal under that religion’s law. God’s law supercedes man’s law. The author should have been aware of this fact before he wrote that deceptive sentence.

  • Epicuros

    Because of naskh. All the “peaceful” verses casually quoted by apologists were abrogated when Muhammad gained power.

  • Epicuros

    Except Al Qaeda does as the prophet of Islam did and ordered.

  • SODDI

    When Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments – one of which said quite clearly “Thou shalt not kill” – the first thing he did was to kill all the Hebrews who had reverted to paganism. A paleolithic Charles Manson. No invisible sky daddy struck him down dead for violating that commandment.

  • Muslimsforpeace

    There is no such thing as Naskh. NO verse of Quran is abrogated.

  • Muslimsforpeace

    There is no such thing as Naskh. NO verse of Quran is abrogated.

  • Muslimsforpeace

    Quran and life of Prophet Muhammad both teach peaceful Islam.

  • Muslimsforpeace

    Quran and life of Prophet Muhammad both teach peaceful Islam.

  • Abey

    They are “peaceful” if you allow them in your country without resistance and accept their religion, otherwise they believe they had the right to impose an inordinate head tax on each member of your family, or otherwise kill you and enslave your wife and children and expropriate your property. This is in short the basic principal of Jihad according their accepted religious texts, and is compulsory on every Muslim.

  • kinbukid

    The moral equivalency of the Westboro church and Islam is ridiculous. First, the Westboro church has never killed anyone or issued a fatwa to have anyone killed who disagrees with them. Islamic terrorists have slaughtered thousands of innocents worldwide. Second, no legitimate Christian organization supports or endorses Westboro church. Any Christian leader who expressed any support whatsoever for them would be driven from office immediately. Westboro came to picket a soldier’s funeral in my hometown. Literally thousands of people lined the funeral route, Christians, atheists, straight, gay, white, black, liberal, conservative, to protest Westboro’s presence and make sure those idiots never made it anywhere near the soldier’s family. When was the last time the local mosque showed that kind of solidarity against their brother terrorists?

  • ThomasBaum

    Arsalan Iftikhar

    You wrote, “In response to the continuing pedophilia epidemic which has rocked the Catholic Church around the world for decades, let us imagine that there was a high-profile former prime minister of a prominent country who went on-the-record to state that this pedophilia epidemic somehow shows the world that there was an inherent “problem within Christianity.”

    For one thing this is not what Jesus taught however there are many problems within the “religion” of Christianity but Christianity is not about “religion”, it is about God becoming One of us for ALL of us.

    You then asked, “How do you think that most Christians around the world would react to this kind of blanket statement about their religion?”

    I can’t speak for “most Christians”, I can’t even speak for any other Christian, I don’t care what anyone says about Christianity, I am just thankful that God’s Plan is truly universal.

    You then wrote, “The reason that I will always sincerely believe this sentiment is because since there is literally no religion on earth that condones illegal murder as part of its basic teachings”

    Are you saying that the “murders” that appear to be santioned by Muhammad are legal?

    You also wrote, “Because if we continue to blame the religions and not the flawed believers, then we will be needlessly falling into the trap that the extremists have laid out there for the rest of us.”

    Or we may take a closer look at the “religions”.

  • Kekerusey

    Hi Arsalan,

    You say, “Islamic extremists are about as ‘Muslim’ as the Westboro Baptist Church is ‘Christian’.”

    I believe that stance is wrong. Adopting it requires you to arbitrarily define some aspects of a given belief system (be that Christian, Muslim or something else) as inherently more accurate, rational or “good” and others as not. As far as I can tell all of these views (whether extreme or not) are as valid versions of the relevant scriptures as any other … good or bad, ALL require a degree of interpretation. I find myself more in line with atheists who seem to have a kind of qualified admiration for fundamentalists because, like them, I recognise that the only truly valid interpretation of religious scripture is literal (albeit insanely wrong). Any variation from that requires justification and that’s where it gets tricky.

    That may not be the politically correct thing for me to say but there it is.

    Keke

  • EddietheInfidel

    I’m relatively certain that the author’s use of the phrase “illegal murder” was intentional, and it implies that he does condone murder under certain unstated circumstances. Perhaps when an individual engages in apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, and disbelief? Mr. Iftikhar, in his lamely apologetic piece for islam, fails to mention that in practice this “crimes” are routinely punished with death in much of the muslim world today, but evidently knows he’s covering for them with his “illegal murder” misdirection.

  • markjuliansmith1

    “Because if we continue to blame the religions and not the flawed believers, then we will be needlessly falling into the trap that the extremists have laid out there for the rest of us.”

    Arsalan Iftikhar “flawed believers”. You do realise this is what Tony Blair is referring to. That consistently (continuously) since the seventh century Islam has informed a Muslim behavioural variance inclusive of terror and subjugation of Other and consistently (continually) informs ‘major schism’ not only because of the significant of the numbers of ‘flawed believers’ but more importantly the’ flawed believers’ consistent Islamic construct of Other.

    ‘flawed believers’ yes everything is relative. Who is not flawed? But relatively how flawed consistently is important to the security of Nations, States, Neighbourhoods, and Citizens.

    Tony Blair is correct – if he was not billions and billions of dollars and wasted lives simply would not appear on Humanities ledger as specifically sourced from Islam (Muslims).

    But it is clearly in the ledger. In space and time Muslim behavioural variance informs ‘flawed believers’ nature which leads to ‘major schism’. What is happening on the streets of Egypt right now? Peace and Harmony? Therefore?