Blair urges communities to root out extremism

Tony Blair today said that moderate Muslims had a key role in defeating “the ideas” of Islamic extremism.

The government cannot go in and root out extremism in the Muslim community, this was up to communities, he told senior MPs.

It follows criticism from a prominent Muslim MP about the lack of progress made by the government in engaging Muslims in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks.

Tooting MP Sadiq Khan said only three of 64 recommendations made by Muslim working groups to the government had been implemented.

But in his bi-annual appearance before the chairmen of the House of Commons select committees, Mr Blair stressed the influence that moderate Muslims should be having.

“The government has its role to play in this, but honestly the government itself is not going to defeat this,” he said.

“If you want to defeat this extremism you have to defeat its ideas, and you have to defeat a completely false sense of grievance with the West.”

He disagreed that the problem was that the government had not acted, and urged moderate Muslims to stress that not only was terrorism wrong but that the views about the West held by extremists were wrong.

“My view in the end is that you cannot defeat this extremism through whatever a government does. You can only defeat it when people inside the community . are going to stand up and not only say you are wrong to kill people through terrorism . but you are wrong in your view on the West.”

Mr Khan had also expressed disappointment at the failure to hold a public inquiry into the London bombings – one of the recommendations made by the working group.

But Mr Blair said such an inquiry “would divert an enormous amount of resources, energy and commitment from the police and the security services”, and would only “tell you what we already know”.

The prime minister was asked about a wide range of issues at the liaison committee meeting, where he receives no advance notice of the questions.

He also dealt with the recent criticisms of the Home Office and his comments about “rebalancing” the criminal justice system.

Mr Blair said there should be “no obligation” to protect those foreign nationals who are “committing criminal offences in our country”. It was “absurd” that a person who was inciting terrorism or committing terrorism acts could not be returned to their country of origin.

“Surely the rights of wider society as a whole to be protected from the activities of that person is greater than the risk that they have taken upon themselves by breaking the rules of our society,” he said.

Asked about the case of the Afghan hijackers who were permitted by a court to stay in the UK after claiming asylum, Mr Blair said: “It is very frustrating for us that people who have hijacked an aircraft we have now got to let them stay in the country”.

He added that policymakers need a “very deep rooted philosophical debate about the balance between liberty and security” to help frame legislation.

Accused of legislating for the sake of it, Mr Blair agreed that on its own it was not the answer, but added: “I wouldn’t want to be without any of the bits of legislation that we have passed.”

On the problems with the Home Office, he said he “powerfully disagreed with the view that legislation is not part of the answer” and with those “who say it is systems management in the Home Office that alone will solve this”.